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Benjamin F. Johnson (1818-1905) 

Autobiography (1818-1846) 

From, Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review 

(Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and PubUshing Co., 1947) 
pp. 7-107. 

Available online at: 



I was born July 28, 1818, in the town of Pomfret, Chatauqua County, 
New York. My father, Ezekiel Johnson, was born in Uxbridge, 
Massachusetts, January 12, 1776, and my mother, Julia Hills, was born in 
Upton, Massachusetts, September 26, 1783. 

To my parents were born sixteen children, namely: Joel Hills, Nancy 
Maria, Seth Gurnsey, Delcina Diadamia, Julia Ann, David, Almera 
Woodard, Susan Ellen, Joseph Ellis, Benjamin Franklin, Mary Maria, Elmer 
Wood, George Washington, William Derby, Esther Meleta and Amos 
Partridge. Excepting Elmer W., who died in infancy, all arrived at 
maturity, and all were among the first to embrace the fullness of the 

In 1806 my parents moved from Royalton, Massachusetts, to Westford, 
Crittenden County, Vermont, from which place, in 1814, they moved to 
the place of my birth, in western New York. 

My earliest recollections are of pioneer life, clearing deep forests with 
great labor for my parents, to obtain but scanty living comforts. While 
gathering forest nuts, wild fruits and flowers, with the tender care of [to 
me) a beloved and beautiful mother, loving elder sisters, and 
companionship of my almost twin brother; these were to me the happy 
features of my childhood and early youth. 

At about 4 years of age, the death of my 18-month-old brother, Elmer 
Wood, brought to me a deep and lasting sorrow and grief, that through 
childhood often wet my pillow with tears and saddened my lonely hours. 
My mother possessed high religious veneration, and early taught me faith 


in God and the necessity of prayer. At this early period, so soon after the 
war of 1812, and in what was then a wild and almost frontier region, with 
heavy primeval forests to clear away before a meager crop of anything 
could be raised from the virgin soil for food, it seemed to require a giant 
fortitude and great patience on the part of all, to wait for results. My 
father for a series of years wrestled with the herculean task of clearing off 
the forests, but worn with incessant labors and the care of so large a 
family, he sought for a stimulus, and in my earliest childhood became 
addicted to the use of ardent spirits. Neither his labors nor his love for his 
family seemed to diminish, yet the fiend of unhappiness had entered our 
home to break the bonds of union between our parents and to destroy the 
happiness of their children. In looking back over my childhood it almost 
seems that I was born to be a child of sorrow, for such was my love for 
both of my parents that because of the troubles and unhappiness my 
heart at times would seem almost ready to burst with sorrow and grief, 
and a feeling always seemed with me to wish that I had died at my birth, 
or that 1 never had been born. 

With the deepest sympathies for our father's hard labors all his boys 
early learned to be helpful, and even at six years of age I was accustomed 
to follow him in the summertime to the forests and fields, to pile and burn 
the brush, or in planting time, to drop the seeds, or in haying, open the 
swaths for drying the hay, and no one then old enough to become in any 
way a help was left to be idle. All our support and home comforts were 
produced by our home industry; from the wool all our winter clothing 
was made for the men and boys, and from the flax all the summer clothing 
both for women and men; also all the bed and table linen and toweling. At 
this period young women were not thought qualified for marriage, who 
could not, through their own industry provide all these things. Our 
cheese, butter and honey were home products, as also sugar, thousands of 


pounds of which we made from maple forests; while soap and candle 
making, with beer brewing were common, homelike events. 

While yet in childhood I was accompanied by my mother or those older 
than myself each Sabbath to the Sunday School and Presbyterian meeting. 
Here I learned to read and write from the Bible and to begin to be 
afflicted with the idea of a future punishment, with literal fire and 
brimstone to those who did not "get religion" or a "change of heart." 
Before I was ten years of age I was greatly exercised with anxiety and fear 
upon this subject, and until I was past 13 years of age, and had received 
the gospel, I did not cease to attend all their religious meetings and 
revivals, hoping 1 might obtain that forgiveness of sins that would release 
me from the fears of that awful burning pit so powerfully portrayed. 

In my earlier years, although but a child, I was often led to wonder at 
the difference between the present and former religions, and especially in 
the life and character of their advocates. And in reading of the 
persecution of our Savior, His apostles, and the prophets, my very soul 
would become enthused with the wish that I had lived in their day, or that 
the day of prophets and revelation might come again while I yet lived. 

In the year 1829, in our village paper, was published an account of 
some young man professing to have seen an angel, who had shown and 
delivered to him golden plates, engraved in a strange language and hid up 
in the earth, from which he had translated a new Bible, and I could hardly 
refrain from wishing or hoping it might be so. I think it was the year 
previous that there was seen at night in the heavens a large ball of light, 
like fire, which passed from the east to the western horizon. My older 
brothers who were out hunting coons, saw it and came home to tell of the 
wonder they had seen. When I asked my mother what its cause or 


meaning was, she said it was one of the signs of the near approach of the 
coming of Christ, or the day of judgment. This remained upon my mind a 
subject of deep thought, and I afterwards learned from those who should 
know, that this sign was given the night following the day on which the 
plates were taken from the earth by the Prophet Joseph. 

In childhood my advantages for parental instruction and discipline 
were not great, owing to my mother's large family and my father's 
intemperate habits, but no influence was so potent as the love of my 
parents and my home, to restrain me to obedience and to the love of 
truth. Yet in no degree was my mother or my elder sisters remiss in their 
Sunday readings, and teaching us from the Bible, or at other times when 
opportunity would permit. My school education was less than it would 
have been, had I loved school more, and possessed a greater aptitude for 
learning. My bashfulness and great susceptibility to slight or ridicule 
made me jealous and fearful, and did much to suppress my capability to 
learn. When about nine years of age my brother Seth, then about 21, 
commenced to teach our district winter school, and in summer it was 
taught by Nancy, my eldest sister, but from this period I was permitted to 
attend only the winter terms. My brother, Joseph E., who was just fifteen 
months older than myself, possessed all the facilities for acquiring 
education that 1 lacked. We were constant companions, and he, being 
capable of taking the first prizes in our school, my pride and anxiety all 
followed with him, so that if duties at home were likely to interfere with 
his success, I assumed them, even in staying from school, through fear 
that he would not obtain the highest prize or honors of our school and 
class. Thus things continued with me, and 1 made slow progress in my 


About 1830 my oldest brother, Joel H., sold his farm and mill and 
moved out to Amherst, in Loraine County, Ohio, soon after my oldest 
sister, Nancy, was thrown from a horse and her thigh bone was broken 
close to its hip socket. This to me seemed a terrible calamity, especially as 
the doctors told us she would remain a cripple for life. 

About this time we began to hear more about the "Golden Bible" that 
had been found by "Joe Smith" the "money digger," etc., etc. My elder 
brother, David, having gone to visit Joel H. in Amherst, Ohio, had 
remained there until the next season, in the spring of which the first 
elders, going from Kirtland to Missouri, stopped and raised up a large 
branch of the Church into which both of my brothers were baptized. 
Previous to this, rumors had come from Ohio of the spread of what was 
called "Campbellism," a new sect, of which Sidney Rigdon was then the 
chief apostle, and through fear that my brothers would become deluded 
by the new doctrines, my mother had written a letter of caution to them, 
which was soon answered to say that they had both joined the 
"Mormonites" [then so called], believers in the Prophet Joseph Smith and 
the Book of Mormon or "Golden Bible." This news came upon us almost as 
a horror and a disgrace. The first news was soon followed by the Book of 
Mormon, accompanied by a lengthy explanation, on the receipt of which 
my mother, brother Seth, sister Nancy, and Lyman R. Sherman, with some 
of the neighbors, all devoted to religion, would meet together secretly to 
read the Book of Mormon and accompanying letter, or perhaps to deplore 
the delusion into which my brothers had fallen. But their reading soon led 
to marveling at the simplicity and purity of what they read, and at the 
spirit which accompanied it, bearing witness to its truth. After a few days 
of secrecy I was permitted to meet with them, to hear it read, being then 
13 years of age; and in listening, a feeling of the most intense anxiety 
came over me to learn more. It seemed as if I must hear it all before I 


could be satisfied; and the principle of faith began to spring up in my 
heart to believe it. This was in the early fall of 1831. Now a bright hope 
began to arise in my heart that there really was a living prophet on the 
earth, and my greatest fear was that it would not prove true. 

Later in the fall my brothers came from Ohio to see us and bear their 
testimony, and were accompanied by Almon W. Babbitt, then not 
seventeen years of age. They bore a faithful testimony, but neither of 
them seemed capable of teaching in a public capacity. As a family we were 
being converted to the truth, when unexpectedly there came to us Elders 
James Brackinbury and Jabez Durfee. Elder Brackinbury was a capable 
man and a great reasoner, and the Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon 
him, confirming the words we had already received. My mother, and 
Lyman R. Sherman, my brother-in-law, were soon baptized, shortly 
followed by the baptism of all my brothers and sisters who had attained 
their majority. At this time my father was employed upon job work as a 
canter in Fredonia and not being inclined to accept the gospel, would not 
permit us minor children to receive our baptism. My mother, brothers, 
sisters, brother-in-law and neighbors who were now in the church had 
always been esteemed among the most eminent in religious society, and 
the news spreading around, the priests began to howl about Faith, 
Prophets, and Delusions, and to do all possible to turn us away from the 
truth, calling publicly for "signs," etc., asking why my sister Nancy, who 
then walked upon crutches, was not healed? But upon the subject of her 
being healed I have written more full in "Faith Promoting Series." 



All my father's family, except himself, now believed, and with many of 
our neighbors had obeyed the gospel, except those under age. And now it 
seemed as though Satan was permitted to try both our faith and our 
fortitude, for after a few weeks of the most powerful and successful 
preaching, in the midst of ridicule, scoffing and persecution. Elder 
Brackinbury was taken sick and within a few days died. Our enemies now 
felt they had a great triumph; for where now were the gifts of the gospel 
when our strongest man could die, and my sister, though she had 
embraced the gospel, was yet upon her crutches? These things seemed at 
the time a great trial, yet in no decree did it dampen the faith of any, and 
while listening to the ravings of our enemies, the truth, with the love of it, 
became the more deeply planted in my heart. 

The evening after the funeral and burial of Elder Brackinbury all were 
gathered at my mother's with the feeling of mourning, and praying 
together. Late in the evening my brother David felt troubled in mind, and 
when interrogated, said our enemies were then digging up the body of 
Elder Brackinbury. They soon started to the graveyard, which was about 
one mile distant, and on their approach found a party of men around, and 
one in the grave just ready to remove the body. They instantly fled and 
were pursued by my brothers and friends. My brother David captured a 
large and powerful young man, older than himself, and nearly double his 
size, who was brought before a magistrate, and bound over to appear at 
the next term of court. 

My brother Joel on his return in early spring to Ohio, wished me to 
accompany him, which I did, and although only past thirteen years old, 
traveled on foot over 200 miles one week, carrying my bundle of clothing. 


The year previous I had cut my ankle with an axe, took cold in it, and for a 
time it was feared 1 would lose my leg. The ankle was still weak, and the 
misery of that journey can only be known by my good angel and myself. 

In the course of the summer, my father, Seth, Susan, and others came 
from our home in New York to Kirtland, Ohio, saw the Prophet Joseph, 
and later came to us in Amherst. My father then appeared favorably 
impressed, and to all appearance was becoming confirmed in the faith 
and truth of the gospel. 

While in Amherst, at my brother Joel's a mania seemed to come over 
Seth, whom we all so dearly loved, and who was regarded by all as a 
gentleman and a scholar— a pattern for all young men. Apparently this 
was because of his extreme anxiety to see our father converted to the 
truth and redeemed from intemperance. Our first intimation of this mania 
was the discovery that he had left the house in the night, and when, after 
anxious searching and waiting for him, he came back about 10 o'clock 
A.M. next day, his mind in a wild and deranged condition. We found he 
had traveled near 100 miles in that short period of time. He returned 
home with my father, and remained weakened in mind for a few months, 
but was the same fall able to come to Ohio, from which place, after a short 
stay, 1 accompanied him home, after which he became to all appearance 
perfectly sound in mind. 

Our hopes that our father would embrace the gospel were blighted, for 
all the light that had been reflected upon his understanding seemed 
turned to darkness, and so great was his darkness that at times it 
appeared like the buffetings of the Evil One. 


Thus things remained until my father concluded to sell our home in 
New York and move to Chicago, which then was but a small frontier town. 
With this view he sold his two farms in the fall of 1832, and in the early 
spring of 1833 sailed up the lakes with the understanding that we were to 
give possession before the first of June and he would send us instructions 
as to when we were to come to him. But time passed, and no letter of 
instruction came; and being compelled to give possession of our home, 
we started for Ohio, and arrived at Kirtland early in June 1833. Some of 
our wagons and teams were traded for a home on what was then called 
"Kirtland Flat," close by the schoolhouse. My father at Chicago had bought 
a quarter section of land, and had written, but through some overruling 
providence his letters miscarried, and after waiting a length of time he 
disposed of his land and returned, to find us all at Kirtland. My mother 
being unwilling to leave Kirtland, my father concluded to remain, though 
apparently under protest, for his feelings had now become bitter through 
his disappointment. And here I will say, that although my father was 
apparently opposed to the truth, and had developed habits, yet he was a 
man of the highest organization. As a husband and parent, he was by 
nature the most tender and affectionate. As a neighbor and friend, most 
obliging and true, and was a man of truth and honor among men. Never 
was a question known to be raised as to his integrity, for his word was his 
bond; and in all things he was a gentleman in the fullest sense, except 
only in the habit of intemperance, which at times would seem to change 
his whole nature. He was a man of full middle stature, about 5 ft. 10 in. in 
height; of solid build, fine light brown hair, a mild but piercing blue eye, 
with light smooth skin, and of natural personal attractions. He was 
beloved and sought after by his friends, and for his words only he was 
feared and avoided, for with no other blow than words was he ever 
known to strike anything big. 


In the fall of 1833, while yet there were but few saints in Kirtland, and 
those all of the poorer class, it was required by the Lord that a temple 
should be built at that place. As at first it was designed to build it of brick, 
my brother Joel H. was called upon to burn them. After obtaining a 
brickyard belonging to Brothers Joseph and Thomas Hancock, I went to 
work to assist in making them. Here my brother David, a young man of 
twenty-three years of age, 6 ft. 3 in. in height, straight, and of the finest 
build and deportment, through his ambition in labors upon the year, and 
in procuring wood with which to burn the brick, overtaxed his strength, 
took severe cold, and commenced bleeding at the lungs. He lingered for a 
few weeks in quick consumption, and died as he had lived, a true Latter- 
day Saint. His last testimony was given through the gift of tongues, which 
was interpreted by Brother Don Carlos Smith, who as his friend and 
companion, was present at his death, which occurred October 30, 1833. 

Previous to this, the purpose of building the temple of brick was 
abandoned, as a stone quarry at easy distance was opened to obtain the 
rock for its construction. But such was the poverty of the people at the 
time of breaking ground for its foundation, that there was not a scraper 
and hardly a plow that could be obtained among the Saints. 

At the laying of the cornerstones of the temple, in the spring of 1834 
my brothers, Joel H. and Seth, and brother-in-law, L.R. Sherman, assisted. 

On the night of the 14th of November of that year was seen a 
fulfillment of one of the noted predictions of our Savior pertaining to the 
last days, that we had so often heard quoted by the elders, that "the stars 
should fall from heaven as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs." But my 
pen is inadequate to give a description of the scene then presented, for 
the heavens were full of a blazing storm, from zenith to horizon, and a 


view more sublime and terrible the eyes of man may never have seen. To 
the fearful it struck terror, and even some of the Saints seemed almost 
paralyzed with fear, for it appeared for a time that both the heavens and 
the earth were on fire. I gazed upon the scene with wondering awe, but 
with full realization of its purport as a sign of the last days. I afterwards 
learned that it occurred on the night following the driving of the Saints 
from Jackson County, Missouri. 

The winter of 1833-34 I attended district school in Kirtland. Brother 
Joel H. had bought some wild land in the township, and also built a saw 
mill, and sometimes working for our neighbors, my brother Joseph E. and 
myself spent our first year, including the brick-making. 

As we had no permanent business at home to occupy both Joseph and 
myself, and there being at home three brothers still younger, I deemed it 
better to look for some permanent employment, and engaged to Brother 
Uriah B. Powell to learn the saddlery business at $24 a year with board. 
Previous to this, however, the mob had driven the Saints from Jackson 
County, and Zion's camp was preparing to start, in which I desired to 
accompany my brother Seth, and brother-in-law E.R. Sherman, with A. W. 
Babbitt, who was to marry my sister, Julia. But the Prophet deemed it not 
best for me to go, owing to the opposition of my father, and as 1 had not 
yet received my baptism. I was assured by the prophet Joseph that no loss 
should come to me for waiting, for although not fully a member I had 
partaken of every hope, desire, and spiritual influence with which those 
around me were animated. It was with a joy almost unspeakable that I 
realized that 1 was living in a day when God had a prophet upon the earth. 

In the summer of 1834 Father Joseph Smith, Sr., commenced to visit 
the families of the Saints and give patriarchal blessings, and greatly was 


the Spirit of the Lord manifested among the Saints in the gift of tongues, 
with interpretation, prophecy, and the gift of healing. In the course of the 
summer Elder Jared Carter, a man then of mighty faith, came with other 
elders to our house, and seeing sister Nancy upon her crutches 
commanded her in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to leave her 
crutches and walk, which she at once did, and never again did she use 
them, although for years she had borne no weight upon her broken joint. 
We all knew it to be the power of God, and almost felt to shout Hosanna! 
to think our beloved sister was again sound in limb and able to walk. But 
in the midst of our joys then, oh, how many sorrows to us the future had 
yet to disclose. I now thought of what was so often said by both enemies 
and friends, in my native town, and felt that now my sister was healed all 
that would be needed for their conversion was for me to go and tell it to 
them. But all this proved a great mistake, as I may farther on relate. 

After working with Brother Powell a few months as apprentice, he 
broke up business, and 1 sought employment in running a sawmill, 
carpentering, etc., until winter. Meanwhile many of the members of Zion's 
Camp were returning home, among whom was my brother, Seth, Lyman 
R. and A. W. Babbitt. My brother, Seth, returned quite feeble in health, 
having nearly died of cholera, of which a number of the brethren had died 
in Missouri. Yet he felt as he always did that he must be useful, and 
although weak in body he engaged to teach a large school in the town of 
Willoughby, a few miles from Kirtland. Here he taught while I attended 
school in Kirtland until February when failing health compelled him to 
return home. Here all was solicitude--our beloved brother had come 
home, perhaps to die— a brother beloved by all who knew him, of whom 
no unkind word was ever known to be spoken; by me more than beloved, 
almost worshipped! Must he--could he die and leave us? Oh the cruel 
agony of such bereavement to the young, to whom in such sorrows, life 


appears so long and lonesome. But after all our anxieties, prayers and 
tears, in the midst of his testimonies to us and blessings upon us he died 
February 19, 1835. And even now, that 1 am growing old, and the time is 
hastening when I may, if faithful, meet and greet the departed, yet in 
calling back this and other bereavements of my youth, my heart again 
swells with emotion and my eyes become blind with tears. Yet there was 
one consolation that the Lord had reserved for me, relating to this 
brother that I will relate: 

During his sickness a personage appeared to him and told him that had 
he retained his faith and his desire to live, there was a work for him to do 
on earth, but that it was all well, for a greater work was now awaiting 
him, and that the Lord would raise up another to do his earthly work. But 
the idea, that another was to do his work, and perhaps take his blessings, 
was not consoling to me. And it grieved me much when the members of 
Zion's Camp came forward for their blessings, to think that another might 
step in and take the blessing of one who had gone forth in feeble health 
and had shortened his days by his self sacrifice. But I had not long to wait 
for comfort. 

In the spring of 1835 before I was baptized, my mother and all her 
children met at the house of my sister, Delcena Sherman, to receive from 
Patriarch loseph Smith, Sr., our patriarchal blessings. He blessed all 
according to age until be came to Joseph E. and myself, when he placed 
his hands first upon my head. My mother told him I was the youngest, but 
he said that mattered not--to me was the first blessing; and in blessing 
me, among other great and glorious things, he told me the Lord would call 
me to do the work of brother Seth, who had been called away by death. In 
this promise there was to me more joy than ever before I had known; my 
dear brother was not to be robbed of his blessings, and if I could only live 


faithfully his work would be done, and I should do it for him. I felt this 
was the greatest boon the Lord could bestow upon me. 

Soon after this, I overstepped my father's objections and was baptized 
by Elder Lyman Johnson. My sister Julia was now married to Elder A. W. 
Babbitt, and I will relate here one item pertaining to him. The Prophet 
Joseph, in blessing him as one of Zion's Camp, told him of much good he 
would do in preaching the gospel, and how the hearts of people would be 
drawn towards him, and the greatness to which he would attain, etc., but 
that he would at last be overpowered and fall by the hand of an enemy. 
This Brother Babbitt also saw in a dream, which he related some years 
previous to his death. 

My blessing from Father Smith was to be realized in spiritual 
ministrations and labors, while Joseph E.'s blessing related to the 
greatness of his work in temporal things. 

Owing to my father's continued unbelief, opposition to the truth, and 
intemperance, it was deemed better that he should live apart from the 
family, to which he consented. He bought him a place in the adjoining 
town of Mentor, where one of my sisters would keep house for him, and 
where the younger children often went for a time to stay, and where I 
spent a part of my time. 

At this period, upon my mother rested the responsibility of providing 
for the family, consisting of three boys and two girls younger than me, 
and my sisters, Nancy, Almera and Susan, who were older. With their 
assistance she commenced the manufacture of stocks, a fine article of 
men's neckwear, and of palm leaf hats, then just coming into use, both of 


which they supplied to the merchants, and thereby obtained a 
comfortable livelihood. 

At this particular period the [Kirtland] Temple was progressing, the 
Quorums of the Twelve and Seventies were organized, and the first elders 
were being sent out. Brother A W. Babbitt had already returned from a 
very successful mission in New York. Returning to his field of labor he 
invited me to accompany him to my native town in the same state, which 1 
was very anxious to do, as I had not forgotten how all our neighbors had 
promised to believe and obey the Gospel if my sister Nancy should ever 
again be able to walk. I knew she had been healed by the power of God, 
and 1 thought it only necessary that 1 should go and tell them so, and all 
would at once be converted. But it would require money to go with, which 
it was almost impossible to obtain in Kirtland. About all the circulating 
medium among the Saints was the "Kirtland Scrip," signed by the Prophet 
Joseph and others, which originated in the "Kirtland Bank." Of this "scrip" 
1 had procured as much as would be needed for my expenses for the 
journey, but no one would think of giving coin in exchange except at a 
great discount, and that would leave my amount too small. So after 
pondering the matter for a time in great anxiety, I took my scrip to the 
Prophet Joseph, told him where I wanted to go, and asked if he would give 
me money in place of it. He said, "Yes, Bennie, 1 will. It is right for you to 
go." And he comforted and blessed me, and his words made me more 
joyful than did the money, which I so much desired, and in other ways I 
now began to be better acquainted and more familiar with him. 

The forepart of October [1835] 1 started with Brother Babbitt to visit 
my native place, designing to take steamboat at Fairport for Dunkirk, but 
storms were rising, and fearful of the waters we traveled through mud 
and storm on foot over 150 miles to the place of my birth. I had been 


absent about two years and a half, and although my old companions and 
neighbors seemed glad to see me, 1 soon learned that they were not so 
anxious to see me as 1 had been to visit them. When 1 told them my sister 
was healed, and that it was by the power of God, all interest seemed dead, 
and they felt no desire to talk upon the subject. After a few days of 
disappointment and chagrin, disgusted at my overanxiety to visit them 
and my misplaced confidence in their sincerity, 1 took steamboat at 
Dunkirk and gladly returned home. 

In the following winter [1835-1836] I attended the "School of the 
Prophets" with the Prophet and most of the first elders of the Church, 
where was first taught the Lectures on Faith, as contained in the Doctrine 
and Covenants, and grammar was taught by Elder William E. McLellin. I 
also attended an evening class in geography in which I rapidly acquired 
the elements of that study, which inspired in me a thirst for history and 
other reading. 

But about the 1st of March of this year, my sister Susan, about twenty- 
two years of age, was taken suddenly ill, vomiting blood. All possible was 
done for her, that the loving sympathy of kindred, friends and physicians 
could suggest, but without avail. She lingered but a few days and died as 
she had lived, faithful to her religion. Just before death she called each of 
us to her bed, bore to us her testimony of the truth of the gospel, told us 
to be faithful to its trusts, bade us farewell, and fell asleep March 16, 
1836. Such bereavements come with crushing weight. So much sickness 
and death tended not only to keep us as a family limited in means, but no 
doubt the more prompted us in humility to seek the Lord. 

Previous to the dedication of the Temple on the 27th of March, 1836, 
all who had labored upon it were called together, and in the public 


congregation received their blessings under the hands of the First 
Presidency. I had attended all the meetings, listened to the blessings 
given, and felt a great joy in these prophetic words that filled and thrilled 
me. Yet all the time I was thinking that these blessings would only be for 
those who had labored with their hands upon the Temple, and as I had 
not myself worked upon it, not being strong enough for such labor I 
would not receive any blessing, and it grieved me exceedingly to think 
that perhaps through my neglect 1 was to be deprived of that which to me 
appeared of more worth than all earthly things. When on the last day of 
blessings, I was standing by the door in the crowded congregation, and 
oh! how I did yearn for a blessing! And as the last blessing, apparently, 
was given, the Prophet earnestly looked towards the door where 1 was 
standing, and said to his brother Hyrum, "Go and see if there is not one 
more yet to be blessed." Brother Hyrum came to the door, and seeing me, 
put his hand upon my shoulder and asked me if I had not worked upon 
the Temple. I said. No sir," but it seemed Hke passing a sentence upon my 
fondest hopes. He then asked if 1 had done nothing towards it. 1 then 
thought of a new gun 1 had earned and given as a donation, and of the 
brick I had helped to make. I said, "I did give often." "I thought," he said, 
"there was a blessing for you," and he almost carried me to the stand. The 
Prophet blessed me, with a confirmation of all his father had sealed upon 
me, and many more also. 1 felt then that the Lord had respect for my great 
desire. Even to be the youngest and last to be blessed seemed to me a 
high privilege. When the Prophet had looked towards the door, I felt as 
though he would call for me, though I could not see how I had merited so 
high a privilege. But so it was, and my joy was full. 

1 attended the dedication of the [Kirtland] Temple and all subsequent 
public meetings. I knew of the endowments received by the elders, and 
learned of the ministering of the angels at the time of their appearance in 


the Temple; but as I had not yet received the priesthood I did not receive 
the higher blessings. Greatly now was the power of God manifested in the 
gifts of the gospel, and a general joy pervaded the hearts of the Saints. 

About this time measles and whooping cough spread through the town, 
with which my brother, then eight years of age, came nigh unto death, his 
condition appearing hopeless. My father brought to see him two 
professors from Willoughby Medical College. They examined him, and in 
great gravity whispered together, and without one word of 
encouragement left a vial containing some powerful drug to be given as 
an experiment. My mother had sent for the Elders and as soon as the 
doctors left, Brother Bosley and others came in. My mother said the 
doctors had given no hope but had left the vial of medicine, which she 
handed to Father Bosley, who threw it out of the window. He then 
administered to my brother, commanding him to be made whole, which 
he was, from that hour. When the physicians returned they looked with 
surprise to see so great a change, and were taking great credit to 
themselves, but when told their medicine was thrown out of the window, 
and that my brother had been healed by the power of God they were 
greatly chagrined, but made no attempt to deny it. I mention the above as 
one instance among many that were so common among the Saints in the 
early history of the Church. 

In the course of that year, the Egyptian mummies were bought from 
Mr. Chandler, by whom they were received from Egypt. Great was our 
wonder in looking upon the bodies of those who, 4,000 years ago, were 
living princes and queens. And when the writings of Abraham upon 
papyrus, which accompanied them were taken from its ancient casket, it 
seemed marvelous indeed. And all rejoiced when the Prophet told us 


these writings would be translated, which are now, in part, in the Pearl of 
Great Price. 

It is proper here to say that up to this period from our commencement 
to settle at Kirtland, there had been by our enemies one continual 
persecution of the Prophet and contempt for the Saints and their religion. 
And such was their opposition and hatred towards the Temple during its 
construction, that it had to be guarded, not only by night but also by day; 
and the laborers upon its walls, while with one hand they held the 
hammer or trowel were always ready with the other to grasp the sword. 
Much of my time in boyhood was spent in assisting to prepare arms for 
the protection of the Saints. The lower story of my mother's house in 
Kirtland was at that time used by Brother M. C. Davis as a gunsmith shop, 
for the manufacture of defensive weapons for the use of the people. 

Previous to this period occurred the great exploit of D. P. Hurlburt of 
Spaulding Manuscript notoriety. He was called "doctor" from his being 
the seventh son of his mother. He was of a conceited, ambitious and 
ostentatious turn with a degree of education, but of a low moral status. He 
had been baptized, ordained, and sent eastward with others, to preach 
the gospel. He labored for a time near Jacksonville, Erie County, 
Pennsylvania, but was soon for illicit association called back to Kirtland, 
where he was excommunicated, but afterwards rebaptized. He soon 
became enamored or greatly in love with Electra, sister of E. R. Sherman, 
and because she despised him for his immorality and rejected his suit he 
swore revenge upon the whole community and boastfully declared he 
would destroy the church. While preaching about Jacksonville he had 
learned of Solomon Spaulding, who once lived in that vicinity, and had 
written a romance called "Manuscript Found," and out of this he hoped to 
gain notoriety, obtain money, and work his spite upon the Mormons. So 


he gave notice to our enemies that he had struck a lead to destroy 
Mormonism, and if they would come together he would tell them where 
"Joe Smith" got his "Mormon Bible." He soon collected around him the 
congregations of our enemies, and in pert and pompous style told them 
the tale he had concocted of the "Manuscript Found," which of course was 
good enough when they could get nothing better. And so they readily 
advanced him means to hunt up the manuscript, and were greatly in 
hopes that now Mormonism would be at an end. But to all of them it was 
a failure, but not to Hurlburt, for he had their money. 

Soon afterward by them all he was most cordially despised. One 
circumstance 1 relate to more fully show his character. In the township of 
Mentor near where my father then was, lived an aged man named 
Randall. He was one of the wealthiest citizens and a great enemy of the 
Mormons. Soon after starting his anti-Mormon crusade, Hurlburt had 
married, and Randall had not only donated liberally but had taken 
Hurlburt and wife to his own house for a home. But when their disgust at 
his doings became so evident to him, he saw no more money would come 
from his dupes, and so he in connection with his wife, put up a job on the 
old man, and drew him into a woman snare, from which they would not 
release him until after payment of $500. With this money, despised and 
hated by all parties, he left that vicinity. 1 then occupied a position 
through which 1 could obtain accurate knowledge of all that transpired on 
both sides; my father being regarded as an opposer, knew all their 
secrets, none of which did he withhold from me; and as Hurlburt had 
boarded at my mother's, I had good opportunity as well as reason for 
watching his course. 

In the early fall of 1836 another wave of sorrow and bereavement was 
gathering to burst upon us. Nancy, my eldest sister, who had ministered 


to US in infancy and childhood, who had taught us our first lessons both in 
the Sabbath and day schools, who had ever been as both mother and 
sister, always self-sacrificing, and uncomplaining through all the period of 
her lameness and feeble health, seemed now fading away in consumption. 
After all our previous bereavements, could we again endure this, another 
severe and crushing blow? And now just as I was approaching manhood, I 
seemed to come face to face with the great problem, whether as a family 
we were not all to die of the same disease consumption, by which three 
had already gone, and another fast sinking! She continued to sink until 
the 30th of October, when, like others, she bade us all adieu, leaving us 
her life's example as a testimony to the truth of the gospel. 

Everything now seemed to confirm the idea of a short life for myself, if 
not for all my father's children. My muscular powers were small, and 
though large in vitality I had but small physical endurance. Through close 
application to my shopwork and long readings at night, I became 
effeminate and weak, and some influence like the whisper of the Evil One 
was always saying in my ear, "You are doomed to die young." At times I 
would remember the promises made by Father Smith in my patriarchal 
blessing, and the blessing of the Prophet upon my head, and a desire to 
live and fulfill them, and to preach the Gospel would enthuse my whole 
being. Then the Evil Power would tell me all these blessings were 
forfeited, for through wild shopmate associates while away from home, I 
had been led into temptation, which brought me sorrow and repentance 
before the Lord. But under no circumstances had I ever failed to stand 
firm in the defense of our religion. 

After the death of my two sisters, my mother was unable to continue 
her business in town, and concluded, with my brother Joseph in charge, to 
move out about a mile upon a farm. In November, 1836, the Kirtland Bank 


began to develop; the Temple was completed, and a large town was being 
built, by the gathering Saints. A wave of speculation was spreading over 
the nation, and it seemed the spirit of it was caught by the Saints. The 
revelation in which God had given but five years of safety in Kirtland for 
the Saints, in which to build the Temple and obtain their blessings had 
been forgotten, and all appeared to feel that Kirtland was to become and 
remain a great center of business and religious interest for the future. But 
the Lord had other and greater purposes in view, one of which seemed to 
be to show us the weakness of human wisdom, and the folly of our 
idolatry, by bringing us to see our idols crumble in our hands. [Apostasy] 
At this time, town property and real estate went up to almost fabulous 
prices, and a general rush was made into business of all kinds. Members 
of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elders on missions hastened home, 
bringing merchandise and means for general trade, while the Kirtland 
Bank issued its paper apparently with full confidence in the future. Goods 
were sold upon credit with great hope of better times; and "Why be 
deprived of luxury and fashion today," seemed to be the spirit of the hour. 
But when goods bought on credit were to be paid for, and notes became 
due for lands bought at great prices, then began a reaction. 
Disappointment engendered feelings which reacted upon fellowship, and 
men in high places began to complain of and reproach each other, and 
brotherly love was found smothered by the love of the world. The Bank 
having issued its currency in the same confidence now began to 
comprehend that its specie vaults were empty, with no possibility to 
realize upon collateral to replenish them. The spirit of charity was not 
invoked, and brethren who had borne the highest priesthood and who 
had for years labored, traveled, ministered and suffered together, and 
even placed their lives upon the same altar, now were governed by a 
feeling of hate and a spirit to accuse each other, and all for the love of 
Accursed Mammon. All their former companionship in the holy anointing 


in the Temple of the Lord, where filled with the Holy Ghost, the heavens 
were opened, and in view of the glories before them they had together 
shouted "Hosanna to God and the Lamb," all was now forgotten by many, 
who were like Judas, ready to sell or destroy the Prophet Joseph and his 
followers. And it almost seemed to me that the brightest stars in our 
firmament had fallen. Many to whom I had in the past most loved to 
listen, their voices seemed now the most discordant and hateful to me. 
From the Quorum of the Twelve fell four of the brightest: William E. 
McLellin, Luke and Lyman Johnson and John Boyington [Boynton] of the 
First Presidency, F. G. Williams; the three Witnesses to the Book of 
Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris. Of other 
very prominent elders were Sylvester Smith, Warren Cowdery, Warren 
Parrish, Joseph Coe and many others who apostatized or became enemies 
to the Prophet. I was then nineteen years of age, and as I now look back 
through more than fifty years of subsequent experience, to that first great 
Apostasy, I regard it as the greatest sorrow, disappointment and test 
through which 1 have ever passed; the first real experience among false 
brethren, the greatest sorrow and test for the faithful. But with all my 
faults I did not forget the Lord nor His chosen servants. And in this day of 
great affliction and separation by apostasy, I felt to call mightily upon His 
name, that He would never leave me to follow these examples, but that He 
would keep me humble, even though in poverty and affliction, so only 
that 1 fail not. This prayer of my youth 1 have never forgotten, neither do I 
feel that it is forgotten by Him to whom it was made. 

In the summer of 1837 through failing health, I had left my 
employment and returned to my mother's and there was a season of 
great scarcity for the poor in Kirtland. A great financial crisis had come, 
and money could not be obtained. The Kirtland Bank, with all the 
"Wildcat" banks of the country went down. To make our Mormon bank 


odious to our enemies and entail disgrace on the Prophet, as he was the 
president of the institution, the cashier, and secretary, Williams and 
Parrish signed and issued a large amount of bank notes to runners, with 
which to swindle the more ignorant people of the country, the disgrace of 
which did not follow its perpetrators (who had apostatized) but the 
Prophet and those who remained with him, true to the great cause. 

The split in the Church was now so great, with the principal wealth on 
the side of our enemies, that they claimed the Temple, printing office, and 
ever5^hing regarded as church property. Writs were out for the Prophet 
and others for all public debts. So in midwinter with his father, Hyrum, 
and a few others he started as best he could for the far west. The printing 
office and material which our enemies thought to use to bolster up a 
church organization opposed to the Prophet was set on fire by Brother 
Lyman R. Sherman and destroyed. Those faithful to Joseph made all 
possible haste to follow him to the west. My mother and all of her 
children were of that number. But the same feeling still followed me that 1 
was fated to die young, and should I start would not live to perform the 
journey. My anxieties at that time were not from a fear to die nor from a 
great desire to live, but there was a feeling almost akin to horror in the 
thought that my name would be blotted out from the living. And like 
Jeptha's daughter 1 felt to "bewail" an early death. Often 1 have felt to tell 
the Lord that if He would spare my life to see one son who would bear my 
name after me in honor to him, I would promise to die without regret; 
and it seemed that every ambition, hope or inspiration for life was 
swallowed up in that one desire. 

In the early spring of 1838 an effort was made by the local authorities 
to draw the line of fellowship on practices which then seemed tending to 
demoralize, among which was dancing and late night associations, to 


which Httle heed was paid; and soon a long hst of names was left with the 
High Council to be dealt with, and notice was given to each by its clerk. 1 
had never danced, and rarely attended a party, but from some cause my 
name was in the list, and I received notice to appear and answer. I 
answered by letter in a spirit of meekness, and said I wished to live as a 
L.D. Saint but was not satisfied with my present baptism, and if they felt it 
right to drop my name it would be satisfactory to me, for 1 would take an 
early opportunity to come in again by baptism. Feeling truly humble this 
spirit was conveyed to the hearts of the council, and they said Brother 
Benjamin's letter was satisfactory and carried with it a purpose to be a 
true L. D. Saint. 

1 now felt great anxiety that the way would open that my mother and 
the children (three brothers and two sisters younger than myself, with 
my brother Joseph who was past fifteen months older, and about twenty 
years of age} might obtain an outfit, for the journey was now my greatest 
desire. My brother Joel owned a sawmill with land and other property, 
and my mother owned quite a good farm, but now all real estate was as 
worthless as it had the year before been valuable, but with hope and 
increasing faith we all worked with our mights to prepare for a start the 
coming season to the west. By the 4th of July we had obtained just teams 
and wagons enough to carry the families of my mother and oldest brother 
with their beds and company outfit. To facilitate the matter all their most 
valuable furniture and goods had been shipped by water, to go by St. 
Louis up the Missouri River to Richmond, Ray County, Missouri. 



Up to this time I had not concluded to go with them, fearing my poor 
health might make me a burden on the way. I felt it would be better to 
stay with my father and my sister Almera, who was married and living 
near my father in Mentor, and was likely to remain for a year or more. So, 
while lending all aid possible and assisting in their starting with the 
company 1 was not expecting to go with them; and not until they had 
started, and some refractory stock to be driven made it necessary for me 
to go with them for a distance, did I resolve to go. 

As soon as this resolution was formed, a new faith and feeling sprang 
up in my heart, and I felt that the Lord had heard my prayers. I felt sure I 
was not soon to die, a dark cloud rolled from over me and a great weight 
from my heart; and to all in camp it was surprising to see how fast I 
increased in health and ability to assist in our camp life. But to none was 
it so great a surprise as to me, and 1 felt in my heart to thank God and to 
devote myself to doing all the good in my power. In starting we had 
joined what has since been known as the "Kirtland Poor Camp," called so 
from the fact that the wealthy had apostatized, and those who had means 
enough got an early start; while the poor, by all journeying together could 
make an outfit and travel with much less expense. 

Our start was on the 4th of July, 1838. The company consisted of over 
60 wagons and near 400 souls, organized under the direction and 
leadership of President Joseph Young, Elias Smith, Jonathan Dunham and 
others. All means for defraying expenses were put together, and so all 
were to fare alike, and did so long as they remained in camp together. 


So large a company, poor in appearance, and known to be Mormons, 
passing through the country where runners with Kirtland money had 
swindled the people, caused us to be more or less objects of contempt and 
persecution, and in a number of towns writs were served upon our 
leaders to compel a redemption of Kirtland bank notes. But the blessing 
of the Lord was with us, and there was always a way open for escape, and 
friends always at hand just in time of need. So in a good degree of comfort 
we arrived at Dayton, Ohio, where, as means to defray expenses began to 
be short, it was deemed better to obtain work on a public road then being 
constructed. So we remained there one month, in which time I went twice 
to Cincinnati to visit my kindred and do business for the company. On 
returning from my last visit 1 found much sickness in camp, and some 
deaths had already occurred. The wife of Benjamin Willey had died and 
Brother Willey was very sick, also some children. So much sickness in my 
mother's family, and so much ill health myself, had made me acquainted 
with nursing the sick, and in some degree the use of medicine, with which 
1 had commenced in a small way to deal, and to read medical works. And 
as I had now become well and strong physically 1 adopted the sick as my 
especial charge. Brother Willis appeared nigh unto death with typhoid 
malarial fever, and on traveling through the day but little could be done 
for him, but at night 1 gave him my undivided and sleepless attention. For 
three weeks in this manner 1 did care for and nurse the sick by night and 
travel on foot by day, only obtaining sleep by the roadside as 1 got in 
advance of the company, or while feeding the teams at noon. Often did I 
carry my little chest of family medicines and other small articles of trade 
to exchange for butter, eggs, chickens and fruit, and anything suited to the 
appetites of the sick and feeble. Such was the increase of my health and 
hopes that 1 felt that 1 could do or endure anything to prove my gratitude 
to the Lord, for His blessings. 


In our traveling I was often ahead or behind the company, and so was 
Uable to be interrogated as to who we were and where we were going, 
etc., and this afforded me just the experience I needed, and my answers 
and testimonies were never wanting. I often found myself surrounded by 
large numbers of both priests and people, but never was I insulted nor 
abused. On one occasion while passing through a town of considerable 
size in western Ohio, 1 stopped before a large tavern to answer a question. 
I was covered with dust, without a coat, and barefoot, and feeling 
mortified at my appearance wished to hurry on, but other questions were 
asked and I could not leave them unanswered, until I forgot to answer 
one question at a time and commenced to talk, and as I proceeded the 
people gathered, and when 1 ceased and looked around there were 
hundreds before me and all windows were open on both sides of the 
street, and crowded with listening women; and all appeared to wonder at 
the dirty, barefooted boy. But no one marveled more than myself, and it 
was near night when I left them and had eleven miles to walk to camp. 
The next day being Sunday, a number of carriage loads of people came 
from town to our meeting in camp, stayed for a time and inquired for the 
young man who had preached to them in town the day before, of which 
no one knew an3^hing. I saw them come and go again but was too bashful 
to attract their notice or speak to them. Such evidences of the favor of the 
Lord, through which, by the power of His spirit 1 could bear a faithful 
testimony to the world was of great worth and comfort to me. In this 
manner we journeyed, and about the first of October arrived near 
Springfield, Illinois, where Samuel Hale and wife (parents of Mary Ann, 
who afterwards became my second wife) were taken sick, and Brother 
Hale soon died. It was deemed best that my elder brothers, joel and 
Joseph, my mother and their families should remain there until the 
following season. Here Sister Hale also died, leaving Mary Ann, their only 
child, then some 10 years old, with my mother. 


But I felt like going to the front, where 1 could again see and hear the 
Prophet. On the 13th of October we crossed the Mississippi at Louisiana, 
and began to hear of great troubles among the Mormons at Far West, and 
we were warned of the great danger of proceeding, but our camp was 
only stirred to greater desire to go on. Here I remembered my former 
purpose to renew my covenant by baptism, and as one of my associates, 
D. D. McArthur, was to be baptized, 1 went with him and was baptized by 
Henry Hariman. [Harriman] 

About the 20th of October we camped at Haun's Mill, where President 
Joseph Young remained with his family and where the terrible massacre 
took place later. Here was massacred in cold blood, and in the most 
fiendish manner about twenty persons, from eight to eighty years of age, 
besides many men and women wounded, most of them my acquaintances 
and friends. One, [Thomas] McBride, a Revolutionary soldier of eighty 
years, was shot down with his own gun, and while begging for life was 
chopped to pieces with a corn cutter, or large front portion of a scythe, 
used by one Rogers as a sword. To this particular I may again allude. 

On approaching Far West we were met by the Prophet, who came out 
to meet us, and 1 felt joy in seeing him again. As my sisters, Delcena and 
Julia, wives of L. R. Sherman and A. W. Babbitt, were both living in Far 
West, I had expected to remain there also, but I was counseled by the 
Prophet to proceed to [Adam-ondi-Ahman] Diahman to assist with others 
in strengthening that place against mobs gathering there from the 
adjoining counties. 

On our arrival at Diahman, our camp was pitched upon the town plat 
which had just been surveyed by direction of the Prophet, and of course 


each one was anxious to obtain the most ehgible, or first choice of lots. As 
I was young and unmarried my choice would come near the last under 
the rule of "oldest served first." So when it was my choice 1 found 1 must 
take the top lot on the promontory overlooking the Grand River valley, or 
go farther away and lower down than I wished to. So I chose the upper, 
which at first appeared rocky, but which made the other lots appear 
almost enviable. When, after a few days, the Prophet accompanied us to 
this spot, and pointed out those rocks as the ones of which Adam built an 
altar and offered sacrifice upon this spot, where he stood and blessed the 
multitude of his children, when they called him Michael, and where he 
will again sit as the Ancient of Days, then I was not envious of anyone's 
choice for a city lot in Adam-ondi-Ahman. Yet 1 would not have it inferred 
that my inheritance there, or those given me elsewhere are to be 
especially guaranteed to have in future. 

At Diahmon I was now without money, kindred or home. All means I 
could procure had been spent in comforts for the sick; 1 had not even a 
blanket and only a small supply of warm clothing for approaching cold 

On my arrival I was at once introduced into active duties, on guard at 
night, and in scouting by day or raiding upon the enemy, as the case might 
require. 1 was now nineteen years of age and in the flush of manhood. Too 
proud and bashful to make my wants known, or to accept gratuitous 
favors offered me, many nights I laid in freezing weather with nothing 
under or over me but the hay in the loft on which I slept. Many nights did 
1 remain by the guard fire alternating between a roasting and freezing 
condition, as I changed sides to or from the fire, until the mother of 
President George A. Smith, who was always kind to me, learning my 


condition, came to the log barn in which I slept and gave me a nice warm 
quilt, which owing to the circumstances 1 shall never forget. 

Soon the Prophet came to Diahmon and called for me to come and 
board at Brother Sloan's, the place at which he stayed. 

But times began fast to change; the people who lived around within 
miles of town had all fled; and all the Saints who had bought farms 
through the more northern portion of the country or elsewhere were now 
flocking into town, some of them bringing little more than their lives. It 
being now November and very cold for the season, a heavy snowstorm 
came upon many families with nothing but brush as a shelter, for the 
aged, or the sick or the mother with her babes. In this terrible condition 
some children were born. This to me was an appalling condition, but a 
condition still worse was upon us, for we were being hemmed in on all 
sides by our enemies and were without food. All the grain, cattle, hogs, 
and supplies of every kind were left in the country, or so far from home 
they could not be obtained except with a strong guard. So our only 
possible chance was to go out in foraging companies and bring in what 
ever we could find, without regard to ownership; and in this way corn, 
beef, cattle, hogs, bee stands, chickens, etc., with anj^hing and everything 
left in the country that would sustain a thousand people, we took 
wherever it was found. Thus we did our best, to obtain food, dividing it as 
was needed. 

At one time when away on horseback, stopping to arrange saddle and 
pack, 1 was left behind by my party, and in my haste 1 made more delay; 
and when my company was about half a mile ahead, two shots were fired 
at me from the edge of the woods not far from where I stood, but I got 


safely away with all that I had proposed to carry from the deserted house 
of one of our enemies. 

At this time the Saints seemed sanguine of our success in standing off 
all mobs and of ultimate triumph over our enemies in Missouri. But with 
me it was different, for although I took hold earnestly to fill every calling 
and to brave danger, yet it was with a constant assurance in my own 
mind, seemingly prophetic, that we would be overcome by our enemies. 

Coming one morning just at daylight from off picket duty I saw a squad 
of brethren, among whom was my then intimate friend and bosom 
companion, W. D. Huntington, brother of Sister Zina D., and 1 asked where 
they were going, but he only took time to say, "Come and see." So without 
food other than a piece of corn cake or "dodger" as it was then termed, 
and after an all-night guard and fast, I started upon a two-year-old colt 
which by some circumstance I had got astride of, and fell into rank with a 
company of near twenty mounted men, with Cornelius P. Lot as our 
Captain. I soon learned our destination was to Taylor's on Grand River, 
about nine miles above, where it was said arms and ammunition were 
held for the use of the mob. On arriving opposite the houses, which were 
on the river bank, we saw a commotion, and persons step back into the 
cornfield which was close by. We hastily crossed the river, surrounded 
the house, and myself with others, went for those who had fled. One man I 
saw and followed, and as he dodged behind a large oak stub, Alex. 
Williams came on one side as I came on the other. Thus we caught him. It 
was the first prisoner I had ever assisted to take, and I learned something 
of the influence of fear upon the human heart; for as we put our hands 
upon his shoulders there was such a look of expectant death, and such 
begging for his life, and then to see a fine looking married man so filled 
with fear that he sank upon the ground. This was one of the Taylors to 


whom again I may refer. But we calmed his fears, told him for what 
purpose we had come, and that if there really were no arms or 
ammunition stored there to be used against us, we should leave them as 
we found them; but if we found they had those things we would burn 
them out. There were two men with a number of women and children, 
and all affirmed that there was nothing of the kind there. After a thorough 
search of houses, barns, etc., our captain ordered a search in the 
cornfields to hunt the cornshocks, which soon resulted in the discovery of 
arms and ammunition and of their falsehoods. The females hastily took 
from the houses what they could carry, and here I might say there was 
almost a trial of my faith in my pity for our enemies, even those who were 
plotting our destruction. Among the women was one, young married and 
apparently near her confinement, and another with small children and 
not a wagon, and many miles away from any of their friends, and snow 
had begun already (in November) [probably October] to fall. My 
sympathies were drawn toward the women and children, but I would in 
no degree let them deter me from duty. So while others were pillaging for 
something to carry away, 1 was doing my best to protect, as far as 
possible, the lives and comfort of the families who were dependent on 
getting away upon horseback. When the horses were brought up for their 
use, there was one animal with a side saddle, on which the young woman 
was to get away; but it was taken away by one Sloan, who had kept the 
boarding house where 1 stayed, a man of education and apparently a 
gentleman. It was too much for me, so I took the animal away from him by 
force, and put her upon it, and then got from another roll of homemade 
cloth and fastened it on behind her. While others were doing the burning 
and plunder, my mission was of mercy so far as duty would permit. But of 
course 1 made enemies at home, and became more known by those who 
were our avowed enemies. Before noon we had set all on and left upon a 
circuitous route towards home. As yet I had had nothing to eat and was 


much in need of food, and before starting went to a beehive and took in 
the hollow of a half pumpkin some beautiful white comb honey, ate a little 
as I went, looked at it and wished I might eat more, but as 1 could not, 1 set 
it upon a stump, where I have many times thought of it through the 56 
years that have since passed. 

On our way home our company divided to scout in different directions, 
and we soon came upon a fine looking band of horses following a brood 
mare with a bell. As I was upon this two-year-old colt and wished one for 
heavier service I thought it a good time to make trial to get one. So as a 
comrade offered to take my gun and lead my animal by the halter, I took 
the bridle and started with two others who volunteered to go with me for 
the same purpose. It was now in the afternoon, and clouds were rising as 
though it would rain, but we pushed with hope and earnestness for our 
animals, who, like the ignis fatuus (will-o'-the-wisp) were always just 
ahead but never to be overtaken and caught. Yet we followed until it 
began to rain, and then we lost the track of our party and were lost. As it 
grew dusk we hastened, but failed to find our way or trail. After dark we 
struck a trail which we followed for miles, nearing a large body of timber, 
and knowing that there was a mob gathering on what was called the 
grindstone, and fearing we were going in that direction, we halted. As one 
of our party had a flintlock musket we managed by care to get a light 
started with it, in the trail we were following, and soon discovered that 
our party had not passed that way. I felt sure we were going in the wrong 
direction and said we must take another direction. I extinguished the fire, 
and as I did so and we turned our course we heard but a few rods behind 
us a party of horsemen who galloped off another direction, which proved 
we were near the mob encampment. We found and followed another trail 
until near midnight, and I became so weary and faint through want of 
sleep and food, I felt I should soon be compelled to stop. We were in some 


creek bottom among the timber, and soon came to a clearing with a 
number of houses. There being no moon and cloudy it was very dark and 
their outlines could barely be discerned. We drew near with great caution 
and seeing no evidence of life, I determined to ascertain if anyone was 
there, and if so, to learn if we could get food and chance to rest. I told my 
companions if anything befell me to come to the rescue, or go and report. 
1 knocked at the first house but no answer; went to the next with same 
result, and finding the third to be a barn 1 returned to the first and called 
my companions. We found doors and windows barred, but forced an 
entrance through a window. The first step after reaching the floor, I fell 
headlong into a cellar under the floor, where a part of what were called 
"puncheons," had been pulled up, with which to brace windows and door. 
1 got out of the cellar, called my companions to bring their guns, by means 
of which we soon succeeded in making a fire. On lighting up we found 
some family had apparently just left, as nearly everything but beds, 
clothing and food, was present. I soon had a fire and on a pile of deer 
skins made me a bed, telling my companions that 1 could not watch, and 
that we should perhaps be discovered before morning. And so, wet, 
hungry and tired, and more dead than alive, I fell asleep. I had slept 
perhaps a couple of hours when I was disturbed by some call that broke 
upon my dead asleep but waking senses. "Who is there?" was repeated 
again and again. More asleep than awake 1 answered, "Me!" "What's your 
name?" came next, 1 said, "Benjamin F. Johnson." My name was passed 
around the house and I knew we were surrounded. Directly I beard one of 
the party say, "I know him," and he at once dismounted and came in. I saw 
it was Brother John Butler, whose acquaintance I had made in a 
snowstorm a few days before. When finding him one of our most valiant 
men with nothing but some green cowhide on his feet as moccasins, I 
gave him my only shoes that were of any value, and now as by special 


providence had upon my feet a most excellent pair of new calfskin boots, 
by which I felt 1 had been the greatest gainer. 

We told Brother Butler how we came there and he said we were then 
on the right road, but near nine miles from home. He had been out on 
special commission and was riding the Prophet's black horse, "Charley." 
He told his companions to return to Diahman, and that he would remain 
with us, which he did. In the early morning he led the way some mile and 
a half towards our enemies' camp, to the smoldering ruins of a house 
apparently burned the day before to find something to eat. The only 
things to be found were a pile of onions and a flock of chickens, one of 
which we soon had boiling with onions in a stray dinner pot. But we did 
not then, so near our enemies, feel great delicacy as to our cooking, for we 
were governed by the idea of "eat to live" and we felt that the quicker we 
could eat our chicken and onions and get from there the greater was our 
chance to live; thus the onions were but half done and the chicken none 
too tender. Close by was an old bell cow, and cattle scattered about on the 
prairie; so while we were getting our breakfast, which was not long. 
Brother Butler had taken a gourd shell with salt and commenced calling, 
"Sook bos! sook bos!" The bell cow at once started for salt, with all the 
cattle after her, and soon he was ahead on old Charley with a herd of 
cattle following. As it went by us we fell in behind and followed to 
Diahman. When within a mile or two we heard a firing of the cannon 
which had that night arrived, having been taken from the mob and rooted 
up by the old sow as related in history. Our animals, nearly forty head of 
good beef cattle for our famishing people, was a godsend indeed, and so 
regarded by all. 

Here let me say that it should not be supposed, though we sought to 
repel mob violence and were compelled to forage for food when hemmed 


in on all sides by a mob who had driven us from homes they had sold to 
us and been paid for, robbing us of everything but our lives and the little 
we could carry away leaving our crops, stock and household goods to our 
enemies, that we were common robbers because we took by reprisal that 
with which to keep from starvation our women and children. Ours was a 
struggle for our lives and homes, and a more conscientious, noble, and 
patriotic spirit never enthused man than that which animated our leaders 
in this just defense of our rights. 

Word had come from Far West that all were now wanted there except 
a home guard for Diahman, but being absent at the time I was not 
enrolled with those to go. A few days later, now without a horse, 1 was 
alone at night upon picket guard when word came of the surrender in Far 

My last night on guard at Diahman I have ever remembered as one of 
the most lonesome and fearful of my whole life. 1 was down the Diahman 
valley nearly two miles. The heavy dry grass which was up to my 
shoulders was on fire on the side of the road opposite to the wind, which 
was high and the flames reached apparently to the clouds. It required 
great care to protect myself and to do my duty. About 2 o'clock I heard 
the sound of coming wagons and felt almost certain that a division of the 
mob was approaching. In order to be more safe 1 went from the open 
toward the wood and brush-covered ground to meet them, and on hailing 
found to my great joy it was some families of our own die just coming in. 
General Wilson soon arrived with his 700 mob militia every man in 
Diahman was marshaled into rank and shed with all arms into Wilson's 
camp, where his soldiers were formed into an open square into which we 
"ere marched, and at the word of command laid our arms inversely upon 
the ground. We were then, under guard, marched out upon the street to 


be insulted, abused and taunted by our enemies. As I was marching with 
others, one of the Taylors, whose place 1 had seen burned, came up to me 
in company with Col. Sashed [Sashel] Woods, of Dewitt fame, and said 
while pointing to me, "This is one of the men who burnt my father's 
place." Colonel Wood looked at me and asked if it was so. I answered, 
"Yes, sir." He drew his sword and pointing in the direction of Wilson's 
camp bade me march with quick step, which 1 did at the sword's point, to 
the General's marquee. Here I was at once put under strong guard, a 
prisoner in General Wilson's camp. I was now twenty years of age, over 
six feet in height, reticent and somewhat genteel in dress and 
deportment, and although not robust in habit or appearance, I could feel 
that where there was culture and refinement, my appearance 
commanded respect and pity. With the ignorant Missouri barbarians, 
however, I was a hated Yankee, and the subject for every insult. With few 
exceptions my guard was of the latter class. 

The next afternoon 1 was to be brought before Adam Black, justice of 
the peace, a pronounced and bitter mobocrat of that precinct. Previous to 
this the State's Attorney (his name forgotten) from St. Louis, who had 
accompanied General Wilson, came to see and question me. He was 
accompanied by Dr. Carr of Gallatin, who made the first speech in that 
county to drive out the Mormons. Both questioned me closely over and 
over again to learn if possible who were our leaders in Diahman, and who 
led the party at the burning of Taylor's place. I had been trained to revere 
and tell the truth, and in my heart I felt earnestly to pray that my answers 
might not implicate any of my brethren. It seems that wisdom was given 
me, and a great strength of memory, so that in answering a question once 
1 did not forget the answer or explanation 1 had given; and when 1 was 
pressed to tell who was the man who led us to Taylor's. I told them I had 
but just come to the place, and had made few acquaintances, but had 


heard the man called Captain Cornelius, it being Cornelius P. Lot. They 
had also questioned the Taylors, and learned how 1 had treated them as 
prisoners, and had assisted the women, and even quarreled with my own 
companions for their sake. All these things this attorney and Dr. Carr 
drew out privately. About the third time they called to cross question me, 
their feelings appeared to change greatly, and they said to me in a kindly 
spirit, "Now young man, we have questioned you over and again, and you 
have given us always the same answer, and in no way have you 
contradicted your statement. We believe you tell the truth, and have been 
raised an honorable man. We know you are in a very bad fix here, and 
apparently but little hope for escape from conviction. You are the only 
prisoner here, and the chances for you are the worse, as there is much 
expectation in the army here as at Far West of bloody revenge. If you are 
the only one to answer for all the burnings and raids upon the old settlers 
then your case is bad indeed. But we are your friends, and unasked will 
do all in our power to save you." 

In the picture they drew there was a terror, in the hatred of our 
enemies. The army there supposed all our leaders at Far West had been 
shot according to military decree, and they had come to Diahman full of 
the idea of vengeance in Mormon blood. This I was made plainly to feel 
through the guard placed over me at night, of four men who were relieved 
every two hours. One relief was composed of Haun's Mill murderers, 
including the fiend, Rogers, who killed Father McBride with the corn 
cutter, by cutting off his fingers, hands, arms, and then splitting his head. 
That same corn cutter, still crimson with blood, hardly dry, was swung 
over my head once and again, with boasting of what it had done and what 
it would yet do, and with oaths and cursings picturing the fate that 
awaited me. No fancied horror could equal the real horror of the presence 
and words of those fiends; and I have ever felt that their presence and 


their words, with the corn cutter covered with blood, was the most 
terrible ordeal through which 1 have passed. Yet it was not the fear of 
their killing me, for 1 could think upon death calmly; but it was a 
something that grew out of being with and subject to those monsters: so 
much worse than the vulture to the giant pinioned to the rock, that there 
are no words to express it. 

The snow was now nearly a foot deep, and it stormed almost 
constantly for days in succession, through all of which, during a period of 
eight days, I was a prisoner. I had no overcoat or blanket, and not even a 
stool upon which to sit. There was hazel and other brush around the 
camp fire, which one relief of the guard, more humane, gave me the 
privilege to cut and make a pile upon which 1 sat or lay down. Of food I 
have no remembrance of any ever being offered me, but there was one of 
the camp messes near the guard fire with a negro cook, and he never 
refused me the fragments he could pick up. 

The second day after my arrest 1 was taken before Adam Black's court 
in a log cabin near the camp. Here I found my two friends. At first I was 
fearful of their purpose, but was soon convinced that the Lord had 
touched their hearts with a feeling of friendship and pity. And here a new 
feature inspired more fear or dread than the thought of death. 1 being the 
only prisoner, and Daviess County not being in the same judicial district 
with Far West, if committed by the magistrate I would be sent more than 
100 miles in an opposite direction, to that of Richmond, where our 
leaders were imprisoned. The mere thought of being taken so far away 
alone to prison was indeed terrible, and even now after so many years, 1 
realize that such was the dread associated with the idea of being among 
strangers, to await trial alone in prison, that I would have chosen to go 
with the Prophet, were it even to certain death, rather than go elsewhere 


to be alone. The thought was a nightmare to me. I did not comprehend the 
object of my two friends, but could see they desired to prevent ludge 
Black from making a decree in my case. The court met again next day. 
Justice Black being an ignorant Missourian, they had him so completely 
entangled and befogged in matters of law, that seeing he could not 
proceed as he wished he jumped up in anger and declared he would have 
nothing more to do with the matter, and the military might do whatever 
they pleased with me. He left the court, ordering the officers to take me to 
the general's marquee, so I was soon returned to my guard. Now my great 
fear was gone, but it was common talk that I was to be shot. 

Often it was said to me, "Now if you would only give names of some 
others and help to convict them you might go free." Feeling that 1 was a 
great coward I sometimes pondered the matter and asked myself, "Which 
would require the greatest bravery--to stand up like a man and be shot, 
or like a dog live to be despised by all who loved me; to make my parents 
who now loved me ashamed to own me, and my brothers and darling 
sisters, to think how they would weep for my shame, also those who had 
died and begged me to be faithful-could I endure such a living death?" 
Every feeling within me responded, "No! I am too great a coward ever to 
meet those I love, who are good and pure, and feel myself a traitor." My 
whole soul gave the verdict that 1 would not save my life at such a price. 
Many an hour while sitting upon my brush pile in the snow, did 1 picture 
myself standing by some large trees or in some open space with the 
weapons of death raised against me; and although my heart yearned for 
its young and beautiful life, not once did it shrink, or in any way consent 
to live in dishonor. 

It was now understood that I was to be tried by court-martial. I saw 
but little of my two friends, but in some way learned they had repeated 


interviews with the general. I here relate one occurrence to give in a 
degree a picture of myself and condition while a prisoner. 1 always sought 
to keep a cheerful face, and would, when possible, draw my guard into 
conversation. Generally they were young men. I sometimes got them to 
sing, and often sang a song myself;and sometimes a guard would seem to 
forget that I was a doomed Mormon, and would not say or do anything to 
insult me. With others it would be the reverse, and no indignity was too 
great, or insult too gross, to offer me. 

The snow was now deep and the nights cold, and as it took much wood 
to keep up a constant guard fire, the wood must be piled up by day for the 
coming night. Soldiers were ordered out to cut the large maple and other 
trees, and at times 1 had volunteered to help the guard carry up the wood; 
and finally I began to be ordered to do so. To all this I complied cheerfully, 
until one time I was ordered to march for wood, which I did--took a heavy 
load upon my shoulders, and started for the guard fire. I was walking 
slowly, for my load was heavy and the snow deep, when the guard behind 
me ordered me with an oath to "step faster, or he would stick the bayonet 
into me." Upon this a terrible revulsion of feeling came over me, and had I 
been Samson, I should have felt no stronger. I threw down the load as if it 
had been a straw, and raised my hand as I turned and confronted him. I 
shook my fist, and told him 1 would not carry so much as another chip; 
that if 1 had a sword 1 would split him from end to end. My voice was 
earnest, and the Colonel just passing came quickly and asked me what 
they were doing to me. I told him I was packing wood for the guard fire, 
and the guard had threatened to bayonet me if I did not move faster, and 
that 1 would pack no more wood. He turned to the guard, and with an 
oath told him that if 1 was not from that time treated as a prisoner should 
be that they should all be put under guard. 


I had now been a prisoner six or seven days and the brethren had 
returned from Far West. Our enemies were still very anxious to know 
who were the raiders, and especially to arrest others who were with me 
at Taylor's. There was also fear arising in the hearts of some of the 
brethren, especially Brother Sloan, with whom I had differed when at 
Taylor's. The brethren were now fearful that I would betray them to save 
myself. At last they sent my companion and friend, W. D. Huntington, to 
the camp to get an interview with me, and learn what my real purpose 
was in relation to the matter. Brother William came near the camp fire 
and having then a humane guard, I asked the privilege of speaking to him, 
which they gave, by my talking in their presence. In ambiguous words he 
conveyed to me the fears of the people that 1 would prove a traitor. At this 
a sense of injustice came over me not easy to describe. I had stood there 
alone in prospect of death, or worse, and I had been true, and now instead 
of praying for me and giving me their faith they were prophesying evil, or 
exercising a faith against me. A flood of grief gushed out of my eyes before 
1 could hinder it. 1 told him to tell the people to have no fears, for with 
God's help I would stand true, even though they, instead of praying for me 
and exercising their faith for me, continued to prophesy evil against me. 
My very soul felt thrust to the center with their suspicions, and the feeling 
went to Brother William's heart, and on his return he recounted my 
words to his sister, Zina, and all who heard felt there had been neglect on 
this matter. Sister Zina asked all who felt like it, to come that night to her 
father's house and pray for my release. That night I felt as though I knew 
the people were praying for me, and all grief, sorrow, fear and hardness 
left me. When Brother William came the next morning to bring 
comforting words 1 almost felt 1 had words of comfort for him. 

The mob and militia were waiting for Mormon blood, and it would not 
do to at once disappoint all their hopes, so I was kept from day to day, 


even after the General had himself come to see and question me, and once 
sent for me to go to him for the same purpose, and determined that at the 
proper time he would provide my release or escape; to which conclusion 1 
have no doubt he was persuaded by my two friends whom the Lord 
raised up to me in the midst of my enemies. The day after the prayer 
meeting about the middle of the afternoon, I was taken from the guard by 
the aide-de-camp and brought to the General's marquee and alone into 
his presence. He said he believed 1 had been well raised and had good 
parents, and from all he could learn had in every respect been truthful 
and honest, and that which had been proved of me at Taylor's burning 
stood much to my credit. He said that he liked my appearance very much, 
and would have liked me to go and live with him. If 1 would leave the 
Mormon faith and go with him, and make my home with him he had every 
advantage to give me to become rich, and he would see that I would be 
one of the richest young men of the state. If I would do so, he would give 
me a pass and furnish me a horse to go direct to his home. I thanked him 
from my heart, for his words were tender and kind, softened by a power 
he did not comprehend; but I told him 1 had parents back east, from 
whom I had till now never been separated, and that if I was ever free 
again I must go to them, for I knew my kindred were in great anxiety for 
my safety, and would fear I was dead until they saw me again. He said he 
did not blame me, and he would take the responsibility to give me a pass, 
but 1 must avail myself of the night time to get away, for old citizens 
around Diahman would certainly kill me if they found I was set at liberty. 

About an hour before sunset he gave the pass, and a guard to go with 
me, to get some items and say goodbye, and especially to inquire where I 
could find shelter for the night--a few miles from town. He was told of a 
house four or five miles distant, where I could build a fire and keep from 
freezing. It was still cold, with deep snow, and I started alone just at 


sunset, without blanket, overcoat, mittens, or any clothing more than a 
respectable suit of common thickness and warmth. 1 had a few matches 
with which 1 hoped to kindle a fire in the cabin to which 1 was directed, 
but when there found someone had been before me, and had not only 
burned the wood, but had burned the chinking of the house. I sought in 
the snow for wood to start a fire but could not find any, and for a time did 
not know what to do, but finally concluded to strike across the prairie ten 
miles farther, to the houses of some brethren living in a skirt of timber 
between Diahman and Far West, who had not been disturbed by the mob. 
To this timber I started, still wading in snow without a path. Late in the 
night I came to a house, and knocking at the door a man came out, and I 
asked for a place to stay. He told me 1 could not get into the house, and 
showed me the whole floor, to the door, covered with sleeping people. He 
said there was another house only a mile away, where I could stay, and 
gave me directions through the timber to find it. I lost my way and 
wandered for miles through the timber, and returned to the same house. 
The man then went with me until the path was plain, and towards 
morning 1 arrived at the residence of Elisha H. Groves by whom I was 
kindly received. The house was cold and the floor open, and lying upon 
only a rug I could not sleep for the cold, which was now fast increasing. 
Food was exceedingly scarce, and after all the fatigue of the night before, I 
had but a small breakfast. There was nearly twenty miles of bleak rolling 
prairie to go over, with deep snow before reaching Far West, the place of 
my destination. The air was full of frost, and the sun through the mist 
looked blue and cold, and the wind was terrible and would be full in my 
face. Under the circumstances it looked like a fearful undertaking, but no 
alternative appeared. Go 1 must, so 1 started with some miles of unbroken 
snow before reaching the traveled road. The wind blew so strong and 
steady that much of the distance I had to walk backwards to keep my 
breath. Thus I traveled until I had got about half way when I became so 


numbed with cold and exhausted by fatigue that it seemed I could 
proceed no farther, without warmth and rest. 1 was upon a high, bleak 
prairie, and not a house, tree or shrub could be seen. It seemed that the 
angel of death stood before me, for my heart and hope began to fail me. 
Yet I did not forget to pray in my heart, and as I looked around upon the 
snowy expanse I saw just at my left, a little from the road a small deep 
swale, where the grass stood high and thick above the snow. 1 thought, 
"Oh that 1 had saved just one match last night!" At the thought I felt in my 
vest pocket and found just one match. With it, through the blessing of the 
Lord I fired the grass. I inhaled the heated air, and soon recovered 
warmth, and after a rest the wind was somewhat abated. 

1 made the remaining distance to the home of my sisters before it was 
dark. The little swale of tall grass and the one match when I supposed all 
were gone, did then and have ever since appeared as special providences 
to preserve my life; and in fact all the providences attending my 
imprisonment and liberation are ever remembered as the direct hand of 
the Lord for my preservation, to His own purpose and glory. 

I found my sisters, Delcena and Julia, well and glad to see me again, but 
here I dare not remain. I must go from here by night, for the mobocrats of 
Diahman had learned of what they understood as my escape, and were 
now hunting me. Here I found an old associate and fellow apprentice- 
Arthur Millican--who was wounded in the Crooked River battle, where 
Apostle Patten and others lost their lives. He was now the husband of 
Lucy Smith, the Prophet Joseph's sister. He had been in hiding, but was 
now able to travel, and wished to go with me. Food at this time in Far 
West was very scarce, a little corn meal, ground by horse mill or by hand. 
We were obliged to wait one day to get meal to make bread for our 
journey, as we could not safely approach a settlement. At this time 


Brother Sherman had gone to Richmond to see the Prophet Joseph, on 
which mission he took cold, and died in my absence, soon after his return 
home. He was a man of great integrity, a powerful preacher and by 
revelation was called to the Apostleship but died before receiving his 
ordination into that Quorum. On the third night after my arrival at my 
sister's we started, each provided with a quilt, a package of corn bread, 
with a little boiled beef; and my sister Julia had procured a pint can of 
honey, which with my young appetite 1 thought would be so good with 
our hard corn bread. I often thought of it as we plodded our way over a 
trackless prairie over which the sun was high and warm, until we came to 
timber upon the bank of a small creek. There we sat down to rest and eat 
such as loving hands had provided for us. 1 thought of my can of honey, 
and of the pleasure of sharing it with my comrade, but when 1 opened my 
pack it was not there-it had been left behind. As I realized its absence, a 
sense of disappointment and forlornness came over me, and as I sat upon 
the log 1 wept and sobbed, just like the big boy that I really was then. 

Our destination was Fort Leavenworth, but our course was far around 
to avoid settlements. On the third or fourth day we arrived at the ferry 
and crossed into what was then the principal frontier garrison in the 
Indian territory. We at once went to the chief in command, which I think 
was General Kearney, and told him who we were, and why we had come, 
and asked for protection; told him we feared our enemies would come for 
us. He said if we wished to work for the Government we should have 
employment, and have his protection. Great was this chance for us; 
whereas we had been so long hungry, cold, weary and persecuted, here 
we found every real comfort of living with safety, and good wages, and it 
seemed in the kindly spirit of the offices, and the advantages offered, that 
the Lord had opened our way and led us there. Our work in general was 
the care and driving of six yoke of oxen, hauling supplies from place to 


place about the fort and reservation. Our food was good, and our mess 
room contained about seventy-five persons, all sitting at the same table 
and sleeping in the same spacious room at night. Here I began to 
comprehend more fully the vices of the world: gambling, drunkenness 
and prostitution were all bare and openfaced, and the Indian women and 
the negroes were just as common as was the money that could pay them. 
Yet while we in no way joined in with them in their gambling and 
carousing, they treated us with respect and often with kindness. Soon 
after our arrival others came some for protection, and all to earn means 
whereby to be better prepared to leave the state of Missouri, which must 
be done by the first of April. 

Among others came my brother-in-law, A. W. Babbitt, and his brother, 
John. Up to this time since leaving Kirtland I had been passing through 
continued scenes of exposure and hardship, all of which seemed to 
develop and increase my physical capacity, and I now stood 6 feet 11/2 
inches, and weighed 175 pounds. 1 was not muscular but somewhat 
nervous and sanguine. 1 was no bully, in fact, 1 lived in a degree of fear lest 
some of my jokes or outspoken remarks might draw me into trouble with 
some of the hot heads of our mess room, and would try to guard my 
words and action on that account. After a few weeks there was a 
discharge of soldiers whose term of enlistment had terminated, among 
whom was one Orkey, a large, powerful, goodnatured German, who was 
regarded as the bully of the garrison. On his discharge he came directly to 
the mess room. As soon as I saw him I felt to like him, which, as we 
became acquainted became mutual. He, like me, was cheerful and jocular, 
and in that spirit we often played upon each other by words. One evening 
as we sat some ten feet apart, in braggadocio boasting of what we could 
do to each other, I felt unusually full of fun. As he dared to "try me on" in 
any manner, I paused to consider. In a moment, a feeling I cannot explain 


enthused my whole being. I sprang to him, grasped one arm under his 
legs with the other around his shoulder, and lifted him as though but a 
child. 1 carried him across the room to his bunk, and raising him high up 1 
let him down with his full weight upon it, when altogether it crushed flat 
to the floor. He got up, looked at me and then at his bunk and asked, "How 
could you do that?" But there was no answer I could make to his question. 
1 spoke as pleasantly as 1 could under the excitement. 1 said, "We must 
reconstruct the bunk," after which we got tools and 1 helped him to do it. 
But he never challenged me again, and the next morning, as I came in 
from attending to my team I overheard him telling my messmates that 
they "had better let that young Johnson have his own way for he was a d- 
-d good fellow anyhow, and no one in that room had any business with 
him." But 1 looked at the matter very differently, for in my normal 
strength I hardly felt equal to a boy, and if it was not from the Lord that 
the power came to me, I knew not whence it was. I at least had no further 
fears while at the garrison, of assault from anyone. 

About the first of March, after learning of the death of Brother 
Sherman, my sister's husband, I arranged to return to Far West. On the 
opposite side of the river, which was over half a mile wide, was a horse I 
had engaged for the journey, and I must be there to get him and be ready 
for a start in the morning. When 1 came to the river it was near sundown 
and the mush ice was running fearfully. There was but one canoe, and 
that would cross but the once. As I had the promise of being carried over I 
stepped in the canoe, when six others came in also, which with the 
baggage was likely to sink the canoe. The ferryman told us it was 
dangerous, and some had better get out, but no one would do so. When 
the canoe was still her rim was not more than one inch above the water. It 
was a fearful and almost hair-breadth escape, skulling through the 


masses of floating ice. But we landed safely, and ever since I have felt like 
holding my breath when the thought of that danger has occurred to me. 

The second day after I arrived at Far West and found my sister Delcena 
a widow, with six small children for whom I must do my best to provide 
for their removal from the state, as well as for their support. Brother 
Babbitt and 1 made a trip to Richmond to learn what we could of the 
welfare of the Prophet and company, and also to obtain our arms that we 
had surrendered. Also, to look after the goods shipped before leaving 
Kirtland as before noted. It was then the time of the sitting of court, and 
we could not see the Prophet or learn anything satisfactory about the 
prisoners; and when we went to look for the goods shipped, we found the 
last of them just being sold under the hammer to pay freight charges. It 
was a great sacrifice, but the people had no possible means of redeeming 
them. Some had not come to Missouri, and all were now soon to leave the 
state, as agreed by treaty with the mob. We went for our arms as directed 
by the quartermaster, and all were found except the one laid down by 
myself, which was not my own, said to be the most valuable rifle in all 
upper Missouri. A common gun was given me in its place which I would 
not receive. I gave description of the one I had surrendered at mean. I saw 
he did not intend I should get it, and went to his superior and told him I 
wanted my own gun and would take no other guns. He said, "No," but 
opened a door into another room into which I followed, and among 
others saw my own gun. I picked it up and at once brought it out. He was 
angry at first, and said it was not mine, then said there had been a 
mistake made. But I had made no mistake and so kept my gun. 

On arriving at Far West, I found my old associate and friend, William D. 
Huntington, then a bosom friend of the Prophet. We were much together 
and consequently I was often at his father's house and in the company of 


his sister, Zina, and both Zina and her mother were much devoted to their 
rehgion. And often at Mother Huntington's did we have the most spirited 
and enjoyable testimony or prayer meetings. There the gift of tongues 
came to me in power, and never has it left me. To Sister Zina was both the 
gift of tongues and interpretation given, and under the influence of our 
spiritual enjoyment it seemed we formed a mutual attachment, which 
before 1 left Far West grew into feelings of reciprocal love, with hopes, 
which although not realized in full, did not hinder our being ever the 
warmest and truest of friends. 

On the 10th of March, 1839, 1 was ordained an Elder under the hands 
of Apostle Heber C. Kimball, who then gave me notice that 1 would be 
called to go with him the coming season on a mission to England. Brother 
Babbitt and myself with all others in Far West were now busy in 
gathering up outfits to get away from the state, and some had already 
started. About the last of March, we left Far West to recross the 
Mississippi and find a home elsewhere as best we might. Roads were bad, 
with storms and cold weather, but we safely crossed the river at Quincy 
to meet many of our people, and to find that citizens of Quincy and of 
Illinois were showing great kindness to the persecuted Saints. Here my 
sister Delcena with her children concluded to remain until it should be 
known where the next gathering place would be. Seeing her provided 
with comforts and home, we continued our journey to Springfield, where 
my mother and younger children with my two elder brothers, and others 
who had started for Missouri still remained. We arrived there in the 
forepart of April, when there was a meeting and greeting, with gratitude 
to the Lord for having so preserved and brought us together again. 1 was 
now twenty-one, with increased health, energy, endurance, and animated 
with brighter hope than before had ever inspired me, all begotten within 


me through a travail of tribulations and sacrifice since leaving Kirtland 
not more than nine months ago. 

In looking back over the vicissitudes through which I had passed in 
that short period it seemed more like a dream than a reality; and when I 
think of it all as real, I feel a weight of gratitude to God that I find no 
words to express. 



I soon took employment with Charles Lamb, wholesale merchant and 
banker at Springfield. Mr. Lamb, almost from the first, treated me with the 
greatest degree of confidence, and during the first week in his employ 
sent me alone on business to Beardstown, a distance of forty miles with a 
valuable outfit and near $1,000 in bank notes to disburse. 1 marveled at 
his confidence, and was careful not to betray it. 1 soon received a letter 
from H. C. Kimball saying that I was called by the June conference at 
Quincy to accompany the apostles on their mission to Europe, and so I 
applied myself earnestly to save money to be prepared to accompany 

While in Mr. Lamb's employ, associated with his family, my vanity was 
at least a little flattered even if I was not tempted by the partiality of a 
rich young widow who lived with and was a sister of Mrs. Lamb. She was 
married very young, had but one child, and was the relict of Secretary of 
State Falguar, who had died the year previous. 1 had often to attend them 
in their carriage, the finest equipment in the city, and I could feel I was 
not indifferent to her. Her little boy just commencing to talk, almost stole 
my heart whether his mother did or not. She was reputed very rich-a 
millionaire, and 1 felt very sure 1 could win her hand if 1 would, especially 
after 1 had overheard a conversation between her and her sister, who did 
not appear to favor her partiality for me. 

I pondered the matter prayerfully, and I could not but feel that to 
marry a woman with wealth would be to bring myself to the world, and 
would keep me from my mission, and if allured away from my calling in 
the Gospel, then all the new and bright hopes that had wakened within 


me would become a failure. I felt it would be a sacrifice too great even for 
a lovely wife with inheritance of wealth. 

It was now drawing near my twenty-first natal day, July 28 [1839], and 
I learned that Commerce, in Hancock County, had been purchased as a 
place of gathering and that the prophet had escaped from Missouri and 
was then there with many others of the Saints. 1 knew that the time might 
be drawing near to leave for Europe, and as I wished to see the Prophet 
and other old friends at the new gathering place, I left Mr. Lamb's employ 
and arranged to make the visit. On my natal day, the 28th of July, I started 
on horse-back for what then began to be called Nauvoo, of "beautiful 
rest/' from Hebrew. On my arrival, August 1, 1 found nearly every one sick 
and quite a number had died, among whom was Mother Huntington and 
both Zina and her father were still very sick. Of the Fisk brothers, three 
had died and our old neighbor, Capt. B. Brown, had lost his only daughter. 
Nearly all were down with typhoid or malarial fever which it almost 
seemed would sweep the place with death, for among all the families of 
the Saints it was rare to find one who was able to wait upon and care for 

At this period there were in Nauvoo two young men, physicians from 
the East, graduates in medicine, Brothers Wiley and Pendleton. They 
went from house to house prescribing for the sick, and on my arrival, 1 
was drawn in at once to follow them as nurse and care-taker, to 
administer the medicines, prepare gruel and other food, bring water, 
make beds, etc. Having arrived on horseback, and the sick being so 
scattered, 1 kept my horse constantly under saddle, and when persons 
were too sick to be left through the night without watchers, 1 often rode 
for miles into the country to bring young women. Often did I go for those 
called the Robison girls, sisters of General Robison and Brother D. N. 


Wells' first wife. Those people were very kind, and the young women 
would come alternately as they were needed. In this way 1 had spent four 
or more weeks and had not yet pulled off coat or boots for a night's rest. 
But I was getting worn out, when on one occasion, in going for one of the 
Robison girls to come to Bishop Granger's, it being warm, I rode away 
without coat or vest, and on my return the wind blew, and we were 
drenched with chilling rain. 1 felt then that 1 was "done for/' and sure 
enough that night 1 took a terrible chill with fever, and lay for a day and a 
half, most of the time delirious, until Sister Sarah M. Granger, herself sick, 
got word to Brother Hyrum Smith, who the second day sent me some 
gruel. In this condition I lay for days, until I procured Sapinton's pills, a 
compound of quinine, which was now the common remedy. They broke 
my chill for a time, and 1 was soon able to walk about, when I was called 
by the Prophet to his house and requested by him to remain there and 
take care of myself. Overexertion brought on a relapse, but I was soon up 
again, and waiting upon the sick. At this time there was living in one of 
the Prophet's homes, Father G. W. Harris, then, 1 think, President of the 
High council, who had married the widow of Wm. Morgan of Free Mason 
fame, and who left two children, Lucinda and Thomas. Lucinda, then 16 
years of age, appeared to be very lovable, both in purity and beauty, and 
being often companions naturally drew us together in feeling. The 
Prophet, seeing our partiality for each other told me to make her my wife, 
seeming to enjoin it upon me. 1 at once moved to that object, and found 
there was a mutuality of feeling between us, and we soon pledged our 
vows to each other. The Prophet at this time sick with the fever, chose me 
his constant nurse and companion, and I will here say, as a valuable hint 
to the wise, that the sanitary treatment of copiously flushing the colon 
with water, much upon the present "Hall System," was about his only 


At this time, with so much sickness and death, a great fear began to 
prevail, with a desire in some to abandon Nauvoo, and with this feeling 
President Rigdon was greatly exercised, making grave complaints. The 
Prophet now arose in great power, shook off his own sickness, went to 
Brother Rigdon, rebuked his fearful and complaining spirit, and told him 
to repent or a scourge from the Lord awaited him. Those being sick he 
commanded to be healed, which they were. He then called for a skiff and 
crossed the river to Montrose, where he found Elijah Fordham, drawing 
apparently his last breath. By his command life returned and he arose and 
was at once made whole. The Prophet then visited Brother Noble and 
other places, full of the power of God, healing the sick, as has been 
heretofore written in his life, all of which with many other things 1 know 
to be true, for I was with him as a younger brother and companion much 
of the time. 

It was now about the first of October. The Prophet was again well. I 
was at his house again, sick, and it seemed to me nigh unto death, when a 
letter came from Springfield, to say my mother and sister, Mary, were 
very sick, and anxious for my return. I obtained more quinine pills, took 
double doses, and found my fever again broken. I had now been in 
Nauvoo over two months, had spent nearly all my money, so carefully 
saved for my mission, had ruined all my best clothing, and of over a 
hundred dollars, had but ten left. 1 got my horses, gathered up my things, 
and in haste, prepared to start. I felt worn, sick, poor, and sad at thought 
of leaving so many with whom I had so long been in affection. I handed 
my last bank note to Joseph, and asked him to take out the tithing. He 
gave me the nine dollars left and as the coin came into my hand he hit it 
from underneath, and scattered it upon the floor, at which 1 took hold of 
him and a shuffle ensued, in which in my weak condition, I came near 
falling in a faint. He held me up, picked up the money, and kept his arm 


around me until I was going tlirougli the gate a few rods from the door. 
Then he put his hands upon my head, and blessed me in the name of the 
Lord and told me an Angel should go with me and protect me. This greatly 
comforted me, for I was very weak and my heart was full. The first night I 
reached my brother Joel's near Carthage, where he had been preaching 
and had raised up a branch of the church. The next morning I started 
again, hoping my chills and fever would leave me, so 1 could get home 
before they should return, but they did not, for 1 had not gone far before I 
was taken by a severe chill, followed by a high fever. This so prostrated 
me that about 4 P.M. I was found unconscious by the roadside by the 
Prophet's brother, William, and his wife, who were going for wild plums. 
They took me to their home at Plymouth, and his sister, Lucy, cared for 
me tenderly, and grieved much to see me, so very sick, start as I did the 
next day about 10 o'clock. That day I missed my chill, but the next was as 
the previous, or worse. That evening I found myself in the house of a 
stranger, who told me that I was picked up unconscious by the roadside. 

In this way 1 got home, and found my mother and sister not so sick as 
myself, and the kind ministrations of friends was then indeed timely. I 
was very sick, money gone, clothing worn and spoiled. My mother and 
brothers after so much sickness, were in poor circumstances and 
resources limited. Now as to the prospect of filling a mission to England, 
or of marrying, all bottom seemed falling out, for in my sickness and 
poverty, I felt myself almost a burden to my friends. While staying for a 
time at Brother John Snyder's, I was treated with great kindness, but 
grew much worse. While in the chill that now came every day, spasms in 
my stomach became terrible, resulting in a fearful hemorrhage of the 
bowels in which 1 voided apparently a great quantity of blood. The doctor 
said if the chills came again I would die, and prescribed India cholagogue 
in double doses, in half the time named in the directions. I pondered the 


matter, felt it was better for me to die as I was a burden to my friends, had 
no money to go to England, and 1 had been sick so long 1 almost felt a 
desire to die. But the medicine was got and administered to me by careful 
hands and loving hearts. Two days passed and the chill and paroxysm did 
not return, and the hemorrhage ceased. I was soon able to walk and life 
began to look hopeful again, and soon came Apostles Brigham Young and 
H. C. Kimball on their way to England. Both had left home sick, were still 
unfit to travel, and had left their families in great poverty at Nauvoo, but 
when they saw how sick I was, and without money or suitable clothing 
they did not urge me to go but left it to my own faith and desire. I much 
wished to go but was so diffident, had no missionary experience, and 
fearing they would feel me a burden 1 had not faith enough to start. They 
told me to take a mission east as soon as I was able and this I felt 
determined to do. 



It was now February in 1840. 1 was just able to be at a Sunday evening 
prayer meeting at the place of my residence, where I said I very much 
wished to get a conveyance out of Springfield, and that I would start if 
anyone knew how I could get one day's ride. James Standing, father of 
Joseph Standing, the martyr, said he would take me in a sleigh as far as 
the snow would last, and that he would be ready to start on the next 
Tuesday. I was yet too sick to sit up long at a time, and unable to walk 
more than a few rods at most, and had hardly yet attempted to speak in a 
prayer meeting. The devil said, "You cannot go, it will be suicide. You 
cannot preach and you will die in the street." 

But courage was given me, and Tuesday found my few articles of 
clothing packed with a few books, in a valise, and some kind friends made 
me a bed in the back of the sleigh, and as I started my brother, Joseph, and 
some others made up a purse for me, of 1 think, $12.50, which was all that 
I had. I have often thought of the strong feelings that at that time came 
over me. I felt I had been dependent on my friends, and that they had 
enough to bear without being burdened by me, and that if the Lord did 
not care for me now I would care nothing for myself. While my hopes 
were small, 1 would not be governed by fears; and my mother, living a 
little out of town, was hardly aware of my real purpose until 1 was gone. 
On the following Friday we arrived at Paris, one hundred and ten miles, 
and my health and spirits had in some degree improved. The snow was 
now gone, but the mud was deep in its place. Here I was left, and here 
now was a test of fortitude and perseverance that may find few equals. 

Only twenty-one years of age, I was alone, sick, and among strangers 
without money, the mud deep, weather stormy, without education or 


mission experience and bashful beyond the power of words to tell. Yet I 
did not wish myself back. The Lord had brought me carefully through an 
experience calculated to teach me that it would not do to depend upon 
my own wisdom and strength, and as for my own capability, it was really 
as nothing, and if the Lord had ceased to care for me I was of little worth. I 
told the Lord I had taken that mission because I was told to by His 
servants, and if there was anything a poor ignorant boy could do to please 
Him 1 was willing to try and do my best, but if He left me alone 1 was 
certain I could accomplish nothing. These were my feelings as Brother 
Standing turned his sleigh homeward through the mud in one direction, 
while I with my valise and a stick in hand slowly moved in the other 
pouring out my secret feelings to the Lord as 1 went. 

I had forgotten to say that the fall previous, while I was in Nauvoo, 
Brother A. W. Babbitt with my sister had left Springfield for the Eastern 
states on a mission, and on passing through Indiana had stopped for a 
season at Pleasant Garden, 1 think in Putnam County, and had raised up a 
small branch there, of which 1 had learned, and 1 now had it in mind to 
reach that place. 

My first day's travel after my adieu to Brother Standing I cannot quite 
remember, but 1 think it was seven miles, but remember distinctly my 
surprise, almost amazement, at its number. The kindness of Brother 
Standing and his self-sacrifice in bearing all expenses of that trip I can 
never forget. Just the distance from Paris to Pleasant Garden, the number 
of days it took to make it, I cannot now clearly remember, but I do not 
forget that through its whole distance it always seemed that the Angel 
promised by the Prophet was with me to open my way to make for me 
kind friends whenever I needed them. At Pleasant Gardens I found a 
Kirtland acquaintance in Brother Jonathan Crosby and family, who. 


together with Brother Ross R. Rogers, his business partner, were in the 
cabinet-making business. They gave me a pleasant welcome, but soon 
after my arrival 1 again took the chills and fever. 1 was kindly cared for 
and nursed by Sister Crosby, whose kindness, with that of her sister, wife 
of Addison Pratt, I will never forget. I was soon again able to be out, and 
as it went abroad that another Mormon Missionary had come, I was 
invited to many places to visit and to preach, which, as yet, 1 had never 
attempted in public. So long sick, 1 was still feeble, and the chills still 
following me, my body was weak indeed, but my visits among the people 
had made them anxious to bear me, so I forced myself to the issue and 
when the congregation came I opened the meeting as best I knew how 
and arose with my eyes shut and commenced to talk. The spirit to talk 
came upon me and I preached one hour and a half as 1 was told 
afterwards, with my eyes tight shut, and this habit tried hard to follow 
me, and it was after many attempts before I could look upon a 
congregation when preaching. A number now came forward for baptism, 
and here 1 baptized my first convert. 1 now had calls to preach from many 
directions, and 1 was gaining in confidence and felt blessed in my labors, 
with the spirit of my mission. But unexpected events drew me from this 
field of labor. In the lurch here was Dr. Knights, an old resident, an 
eminent physician, a man in the highest esteem through this whole 
region. In early life he had come as a pioneer to the country. He had an 
extensive medical practice, and owned a large body of choice lands on Eel 
River, and had returned to Virginia and married a young and beautiful 
lady. Previous to this he had taken a poor young man named Shepherd a 
protegee, gave him a thorough medical tuition, and after his marriage 
made him an equal partner in business. The old doctor was very devoted 
to his young wife and his two little sons, and to give himself more fully to 
their society he gave up principally his medical practice to the young 
Doctor Shepherd who rapidly grew in prestige and medical skill, and was 


soon upon the top wave of popular favor. From this eminence, to which 
his more than friend had elevated him, he descended with a treachery 
most ungrateful, and more deadly than the serpents face. Dr. Knights now 
found his idol was broken, for upon her death bed his wife had 
acknowledged that by the young doctor she had been seduced and he 
dishonored. He waited until his wife was in her grave and then with a 
short club in his hand he went into the office where sat the young doctor 
by the table. He closed the door, turned and took the key, stepped to the 
table saying he had come to kill or be killed, and told him the reason why. 
The young doctor grasped a pistol which was knocked from his hand, and 
he was beaten upon the head until he lay apparently dead. The old doctor 
then went out, locked the door and threw away the key. After a time he 
returned, looked through the window and saw his victim crawling around 
as if seeking to get out. He then procured a double-barreled shotgun and 
through the window fired two loads of buckshot into his neck and 
shoulders. All this did not kill him, but he got up and crawled out of the 
window, and dragged himself into the hotel across the street, where 1 
slept. In the early morning 1 was awakened by the great excitement 
caused by the assault. All the physicians of the vicinity were called, and 
found his skull badly broken, but his brain not badly injured. They took 
out many pieces of bone, in my presence, put in a large silver plate, put 
back the pieces, sewed up the scalp, and within a few days he appeared 
convalescent. But the case was wonderful to all, and that Dr. Knights did 
not attend the young doctor in his terrible condition was a wonder 
greater still, and when asked why he did not attend Doctor Shepherd, he 
simply told them to ask Shepherd for he could tell them who was his 
enemy, and the reason why. Considering the doctor's great bereavement 
in the loss of his wife, 1 called at times to console him. 


I felt small in view of his age and profession, but I regarded it as a duty 
of my calling, as he was a member of the church. He was greatly bowed in 
spirit, and my words impressed him to turn his heart towards me. At one 
time he asked if I walked to my appointments. I said I did, and he told me 
to meet him next day at his plantation a few miles distant and he would 
furnish me a horse to ride. I went, he sent for his band of horses and told 
me to take my choice. 1 chose a fine young horse just broke to ride, and he 
gave me money to buy me a saddle and bridle. So here 1 was raised almost 
as rich in feehng as a Lord. But I did not forget whence blessings come nor 
forget to show my gratitude to the hand that gave. And now in visiting 
him I saw there was something I did not comprehend. But the Lord gave 
me wisdom and discernment and 1 was so led in conversation with him 
that he soon unbosomed his whole soul to me, and told me he had yet to 
finish the job and kill his enemy. Here came a test of my influence to 
restrain him, and I confronted him at once upon the subject. I told him the 
Lord had delivered his enemy into his hand, he had had every chance to 
kill him that the Lord was willing to give, and that as his enemy was by a 
miracle saved from death he must now leave it in the hands of the Lord. 

He was of the hot southern blood, and would seem to agree when 
talking with me, but by the next visit would have returned to the same 
feeling and determination as before. It was now said the young doctor 
would recover. This so wrought upon the old doctor, that 1 saw something 
must be done to deter him; otherwise he would walk into the sick room, 
and kill him, even should a multitude be present, for he cared apparently 
nothing for his own life. Only one idea enthused him-to kill the young 
doctor-all else was swallowed up in that one desire. What now should 1 
do? 1 must save him from himself. To me there was a horror in the 
thought of his killing the miserable creature. I felt he would not again be 
justified and as he had become a dear friend, and was kind to me, I must 


not lose my hold upon him. I must save him by saving the young doctor. I 
prayed, and a thought came to me, which 1 quickly acted upon. With 
pencil I wrote in letters like print to Dr. Shepherd telling him he must 
leave there without delay or die. I slipped the letter under his door at 
night. He found it in the morning, and the whole country round about 
became a ferment. A strong guard was placed around the young doctor, 
and every man in the vicinity was required by a public vote to come to the 
justice of the peace and make oath as to whether he had any knowledge of 
the writing or its writer. Every name was taken and every man was sworn 
but myself, the one who wrote it. I was not suspected of having an5^hing 
to do in the matter. Dr.Knights saw himself foiled; he could not approach 
his enemy, being now suspected by the friends of Dr. Shepherd, and at the 
time it seemed as if Dr. Knights would go wild. 

About this time I learned that Brother Babbitt and my sister had 
returned from Philadelphia, where he had been laboring with much 
success, and were for the present in Kirtland. Dr. Knights' conversion 
being the fruits of his labor, of course he was held in high esteem. The 
thought came to me to urge Dr. Knights to go at once to Kirtland and find 
Brother Babbitt. At first he could not consent to abandon the great and 
only object of his life. While holding up to him the higher obligations of 
duty to his little sons, he would seem nearly convinced, and turned from 
his object, but on my next visit, he said if 1 would accompany him he 
would go, but not by public conveyance. He would provide a horse and 
buggy, and we could go where and when we pleased. If I should consent 
to go, my air castles would fall to the ground, for in the vicinity there 
appeared to be a broad field for labor, and 1 had now a fine horse and 
outfit, and could perform a mission here, and do a good work, and return 
to my mother and kindred; and to her that the Prophet had given me, who 
when I left appeared to love me. It seemed the Lord had another purpose. 


for just at this period I received a letter from her, saying, that as I was 
now gone and not knowing when I would return, her mother wished her 
to marry another man. Following it came a letter from my friend, D. 
Huntington, saying my Lucinda had through her mother's influence 
married a licentiate by the name of David Smith. Those who in early life 
have been too roughly awakened from a dream of happiness need not be 
told of the influence of such a disappointment upon an organization like 
mine. I concluded to go with the doctor, and felt that in leaving, my way 
might open into a broader and more distant mission field. I filled my 
appointments while the doctor was arranging his affairs, turned my horse 
back into the band from which I took him, and was, with all my idols 
broken, ready for a start. 

I think it was now about the middle of July 1840, and the doctor not 
wishing his leaving to be public, met me in a neighboring town. I found he 
had an outfit fit for princes, and we started on our journey eastward. The 
distance to Kirtland 1 think was over 400 miles and it took some two 
weeks to make the trip. Where the doctor was known I was at times 
asked to preach, which I did. 

I had always to watch as well as pray, for at times the old influences 
would be strong upon him that 1 was compelled to dog his very steps. 
Once he slipped from bed before 1 awoke, and 1 found him getting into the 
stage as it was starting. I pulled him from the steps of the coach and after 
his anger was appeased I asked him what was his idea in leaving me with 
his outfit and trunk, in which I knew was much money, what he would 
expect me to do with it or with myself. He said if he left me by no means 
to turn back, that all he left was mine. But had it been a thousandfold, the 
influence of money could not tempt me to loosen my hold upon him to 
keep him with me. 


On our arrival in Kirtland, and in company with Brother and Sister 
Babbitt he began to greatly improve in spirit and feeling, and had no 
desire to return to the west but rather to go farther east. He said he would 
like to visit Canada, and asked if I would go with him. He also invited 
Brother Babbitt and my sister to go. In this I felt there was a purpose, and 
that if 1 went to Canada 1 would remain there to continue my mission. As 
Elder Babbitt had labored in Toronto, raised up a branch, and still had 
friends there, he was quite ready to go there. And so, after visiting my 
father and my sister, Almera, who had married a man in no way worthy of 
her, we enjoyed ourselves here a season, and then started as the doctor's 
party, he bearing all expenses, went down the lake to Buffalo, visited 
Niagara Falls, then went to Toronto and visited, where 1 found an 
apparent opening for preaching. When the doctor had tarried long 
enough in Her Majesty's Dominions, and was ready to return, I had 
concluded to remain and see if a field of labor would open for me in that 

They returned and left me alone among entire strangers, over a 
thousand miles from home, on foot and penniless. It was then the rule to 
travel without purse or scrip and if the doctor offered me any money I 
had refused it, for 1 felt 1 had been a great expense to him. 1 was too 
simple hearted to think of what, by the blessing of the Lord, 1 had done for 
him. They returned to Kirtland, took with them my sister, Almera, and 
started for Ramus, twenty miles east of Nauvoo, where my mother and 
kindred then lived. The doctor went with them, seemingly cured of his 
mania for the young doctor's life. But what a reverse to my fond hopes, 1 
must not reflect upon it, but move towards an opening for usefulness, and 
make friends by preaching the gospel, for I now felt friendless and 
desolate. My anxiety for the doctor had filled me with care, and had so 


completely absorbed my thoughts that they must now be whipped back 
to the spirit of my mission. 1 soon realized that instead of being in a new 
and fresh field of labor I was in the stubble field, already harvested by 
older and more experienced elders, such as Parley P. Pratt, J. E. Page, A. 
W. Babbitt and others, and at most I could be but a gleaner. A few at 
Toronto, who had friends at Nauvoo, invited me to call upon them, and 
others, from a desire to learn particulars of our persecutions, etc., but no 
opening appeared for preaching. In a few country places I found openings 
to preach for a season and in Union District, some miles north of Toronto 
I preached for quite a season and was kindly treated by the people, 
especially those at a large farm home near by. Here I preached twice a 
week to large congregations, with good liberty, and perhaps began to feel 
a degree of self importance not approved of by the Lord. 

At this time the prophecy of Daniel would be the subject of my next 
discourse. I had not yet learned the admonition of Paul "Let him that 
thinketh he stands take heed lest he fall." It had never yet been forced 
upon me, but it came, nevertheless, and left a lifetime impression upon 
my mind, for at the time appointed a large and expectant congregation 
filled the house. With a degree of self-confidence I went to the stand with 
a feeling akin to exultation in the large congregation, and in what I felt so 
sure 1 should be able to say to them. 1 opened the meeting as usual, took 
my Bible and began to read from Daniel, but the scripture that had before 
seemed so full of light was now dark. I turned others, but all were dark. 
The light of the Lord had left me, and I stood there alone before that large 
congregation, alone in my own strength, and in my nakedness I almost 
felt a horror of myself. 1 stood there speechless, and mortified. And oh! 
the sense of ingratitude to the Lord that came over me. To think how He 
had helped me, and that all I was He had made me, and now I stood there 
in my own strength, and was humbled in the dust, with a feeling that the 


ground under me ought to open out and let me down out of the sight of 
all. The flood gates of my heart broke, and 1 wept. The congregation sat 
silent, and 1 could feel their pity. The thought came over me to be honest 
before God, the people and myself, and confess all before them, and as I 
opened my mouth, my speech came to me and I asked them if they had 
not often heard me speak to their understanding and edification, and if I 
had not always told them 1 was but a plow boy sent out like the apostles 
of old, to preach by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and that without it, I 
was nothing, as was now proved there before them; that for some cause 
known to the Lord, His Spirit had left me, and they now saw me in my 
own strength, in which I could do nothing. I said, "As you have come out 
today only to be disappointed, perhaps you would not be willing to come 
again." But I saw they believed me honest, and I said, "If you will allow me 
to have another appointment, rise to your feet." When all the 
congregation rose, I said I would preach again if the Lord would help me, 
at the usual time, and dismissed the meeting. A feeling of kindness 
pervaded all, but oh, how small 1 felt. 1 prayed the Lord to forgive my 
great ingratitude, and 1 would try forever more not to forget how 
dependent I was upon Him. To this day I have retained a lively 
remembrance of the experience. 

At the next meeting, when the Lord had forgiven my sin and loosened 
my tongue, the people felt that the "Boy Preacher," as I was called, no 
longer needed their sympathies, for there was a power greater than 
theirs that accompanied him. 

In this place it seemed there were those who believed, but none came 
forward for baptism, and 1 often caught the idea that 1 looked too young 
and feeble to baptize anybody. I was very thin, much afflicted with pain in 
my side, and at times I seemed to lose all care for my health and life, and 


would sometimes stand three hours in vehement speaking to a 
congregation. I wished to bear my testimony, and felt that 1 could not die 
in a better cause, and that it was the Lord's business to keep me if I was of 
any worth to Him. But some of these ideas were the fruits of my sorrows 
and of my youth, instead of the wisdom that age and experience bring. 

From this place 1 proceeded north to South Gilensburgh, where 1 was 
invited to preach. Here I found Brother Joseph Pegg and his wife who had 
for a long time been members of the Church. He was a well-to-do farmer, 
somewhat married to the world, while his wife was a younger woman of 
high spirit and talent, who wished to gather with the church. Her warmth 
of feeling for her religion made her very kind towards me, which 
appeared to offend her husband. After remaining there a few days in poor 
health I went into North Gilensburgh, upon the shore of Lake Simcoe, at 
the house of Father Draper, who soon believed, with all his house, but like 
those of Union District, they seemed to feel that I was too young and 
feeble to be trusted with their baptism. My constitution seemed terribly 
broken and 1 was often told I would not live to return home for 1 seemed 
to be declining with consumption, which no wise deterred me from filling 
every appointment to preach, and striving to fill my mission. 

At one time on my way from Brother Peggs to Lake Simcoe, feeling a 
little weary, I called at a nice log cabin, and told the lady of the house 1 
was a preacher of the Gospel, and was going to an appointment and had 
called to ask for a lunch and a few moments' rest. She seemed pleased, 
and at once set upon the table in nicest order and delicacy, the simple fare 
of the country, and said, "1 gladly give you the best 1 have. If you are a 
servant of God you will think it good enough, and if you are not, it is too 
good." I said her food was excellent, but her sentiment was better, and I 


thanked and blessed her for both. And this was the only time through all 
my mission labors that when alone 1 asked for food. 

I will relate here an incident which occurred in relation to the gift of 
tongues which came to me. In this vicinity there were many Indians on an 
island in Lake Simcoe. The government had colonized a large tribe and 
they were scattered upon the borders of the lake. Upon the lake shore 
near Father Draper's grew beautiful broad-spreading cedar trees, with 
branches so low and broad that they appeared almost like a canopy or 
tent, and the Indians often occupied this as a summer resort for fishing, 
etc. One morning while taking my walk among these trees I came upon a 
number of Indian families encamped. 1 found one Indian who could talk 
very good English and was quite intelligent. 1 questioned him in relation 
to their traditions of the past, and of their hopes of the future. At first he 
did not seem disposed to talk, but seemed wiUing to Hsten. I commenced 
talking to him of their forefathers, when the Spirit came upon me, and I 
spoke in their own tongue. All the Indians came running to me, to listen 
with glistening eyes and great attention through all my talk to them. 
When I ceased, the Indian with whom I had been talking said, "You talk 
good Mohawk, and we all understand." This was manifest to me, the Spirit 
of the Lord rested upon them, and they would now tell me anything I 
wished to know pertaining to their religion. 1 learned that their hopes of 
the future were almost identical with our own, and they realized that 
because of wars and wickedness they had been cursed, but that through 
the ancient fathers it was promised that the power of their enemies 
should be broken, and a great prophet or prince would be sent to them by 
the Great Spirit. All of this was in the highest degree joyful to me, for 1 felt 
that 1 had been led to them to bear a great testimony to these Lamanites, 
that would not by them be forgotten, and that it would live in the hearts 
of their children. 


The summer season was now closing, and I felt impressed to leave this 
cold climate, and return homeward as my way might open before me. I 
had preached much and borne a faithful testimony, but not one had I 
baptized; and now, over a thousand miles from home, I must perhaps go 
all the way on foot, if I lived to return, with health so poor. People had 
treated me kindly but 1 had only enough money to buy a few needed 
things for comfort, and to pay my passage across the lake. 

Near the last of October I left Lake Simcoe and at Brother Pegg's found 
domestic trouble. Sister Pegg had learned of my starting homeward, and 
greatly wished to accompany me to Nauvoo, and would if 1 had permitted. 
I sought to console her with the hope that her husband would go in due 
time. But in that I was mistaken, and I have since felt a doubt as to the 
wisdom of my advice in a matter of that kind. She was his second wife, 
with two small children, while he had a grown daughter and children 
older, and he no doubt apostatized. 

She with her children might have filled a useful career, and at that time 
having means in her own right would have opened a way for my direct 
return home. But the Lord had another path in which to lead me. While 
here a brother named Archibald Hill came to me with some others, from 
about sixty miles distant near Lake Huron to get counsel in relation to 
delusive spirits then manifest among them. In these matters I had been 
taught and gave them keys by which to know them, and they returned, 
profited by their visit. I felt sad to leave Sister Pegg, who had been so kind 
to me, and 1 have always wished to see her gathered with the Saints. 

I left Canada about the middle of November and made my way as best I 
could on foot in the direction of home, when I arrived in Buffalo, oh! how I 


wished for means to pay my passage direct to Kirtland, but such was not 
the lead by the unseen hand, there was another path marked out for me. I 
was now less than fifty miles from my native place, and although 1 had 
visited it once since leaving, I was then but a lad, and now I might bear a 
testimony of greater weight, and perhaps one would embrace the truth. 
In this hope I made my way to Fredonia, found many glad to see me; and 
the people, from a feeling of old-time friendship were willing to hear me 
preach, but could not be awakened to any love for the gospel. When told 
again that my sister, Nancy, was healed, they thought some natural cause 
had produced the effect. As she had since died, if it was a miracle, 
whythen had she died? Why was she not again healed? I bore to them my 
last testimony and left them, some of my old friends giving me a pittance 
to help me on the way, which was now cold, snowy and weary. 1 went 
back first to Kirtland, and then on to Nauvoo, the home of my kindred. 

But the Lord had his own way, for when I came to Erie County, 
Pennsylvania, 1 put up at a tavern, and as 1 had traveled all day in the 
snow, and was very tired, 1 was just going to bed when it occurred to me 
that before I left home Colonel Harmon had asked me to call upon his 
friends in Erie County, Pennsylvania, if I ever went there. I had my 
slippers on, my candlestick in hand to go to my room, when the door 
opened and a man covered with snow came in and stood by the fire. 
Almost before I thought, 1 asked him if he knew any people named Barnes 
in that region. He said, "Yes, and you can go there right now if you wish to 
see any of them." I told him no, but their friends in the west wished me to 
inquire after them, and when I told him the names of their friends he was 
still more solicitous, insisting that 1 should go with him, and something 
said, "Go." 1 put on my boots, got my valise and rode eleven miles through 
the storm to the house of my companion, who was himself one of the 
Barnes. One of his sisters then living with him was a member of the 


Church (Huldah Barnes) and afterwards was sealed to President H. C. 
Kimball. When we arrived about 11 P.M., he told her he had a Mormon 
elder, cold and hungry, and although a large corpulent woman, her steps 
were nimble until all my wants were supplied. 

The word at once went out that a Mormon elder had come, and all 
appeared anxious that 1 should preach. 1 did so the next day, and the day 
after I was taken by others of the kindred to Union district, where I 
commenced to preach to a large congregation, and from there to a larger 
still. Here now a wide door for preaching was opening to me, but the 
enemy was not asleep. Soon the priests were out, came and filled the 
stand without invitation, with full expectation to overawe and squelch the 
Mormon boy. 1 opened the meeting, and arose with very bashful and 
boylike feelings, and commenced to apologize for my youth, want of 
learning, etc. Just then at a point farthest from me in the congregation, an 
old man arose and said, "Young man, he that is good for excuses is good 
for but little else." Instantly the words of Paul to Timothy came to me, 
"Let no man despise thy youth." And those admonitions to me were never 
needed again. I spoke upon the Book of Mormon and the second coming 
of Christ with good liberty, after which Rev. Jesse E. Church, a great and 
noted preacher, arose and gave out an appointment to preach the next 
evening; said he would down all this Mormonism; that he had once 
challenged Sidney Rigdon, who would not meet him in debate. The next 
evening I attended his meeting, and made appointment for the next night, 
which was again crowded. He then appointed his meeting in his own 
neighborhood and I heard him again, gave an appointment for the next 
Sabbath at the same place, at which 1 invited any present who wished 
baptism to arise. Seven of his own members arose, and repairing to the 
creek and cutting through fifteen inches of ice, were baptized by the boy 
for whom he had shown such contempt. Among those baptized were 


some of the family of John Spaulding, brother of Solomon Spaulding of the 
Spaulding Manuscript story. This story, with every other previously 
invented, was paraded to defeat the Book of Mormon, and it should be 
remembered that in this vicinity lived Solomon Spaulding, and here he 
wrote "The Manuscript Found," which his brother, John Spaulding, 
publicly denied as being in no way possible connected with the Book of 
Mormon. After this, the great Jesse E. Church, as he was termed by his 
admirers, was silent. Instead of squelching Mormonism, and the Mormon 
boy, he had squelched himself, and few were left to follow or honor him. 

Here lived Washington Walker, a Universalist, who took me to his 
house and made it my home while 1 remained in that country, often 
taking me in his sleigh or carriage to my appointments. He was a 
gentleman of culture, but of few words. At this time his sister, an eminent 
Presb5^erian, came from Erie City to visit them. They took her to my 
appointments to hear Mormonism in which she seemed to take a lively 
interest, and on one occasion said there was one subject that greatly 
interested her, on which she wanted light, and wished 1 would make it the 
subject of my next discourse. This was "Foreordination" or "Election and 
Reprobation." If she had struck me with a club I could not have felt more 
stunned, dazed and foolish. I felt that I must comply with her request, but 
how? In preaching the first principles of the Gospel, the Second Coming of 
Christ, the gathering of Israel, Book of Mormon, etc., 1 was perfect, both in 
the letter and in the Spirit, but what did I know about Predestination? I 
did not know its definition, or meaning, nor of Election and Reprobation. 
And I was expected to preach upon that subject. How could I without one 
gleam of light or some key of knowledge to inspire me? 1 searched the 
scriptures and prayed, but no light came to me. The subject occupied my 
thoughts, and "foreordination" rang in my ear like a funeral knell. I 
wished to make excuse to the lady, but how dare I shrink from my calling? 


Had I not professed that my capability to teach was from the Lord, and 
could 1 say 1 was not prepared? But oh, how dark it all was to me! 

The day of meeting came, the hour was fast approaching, and the 
thought almost took my breath. I had not eaten, I had not slept, for 
Predestination had occupied my thoughts night and day. I did not fear for 
myself, but for the great cause to be dishonored, perhaps by me. But the 
hours would not wait, the congregation had assembled, the house was 
full, and my feelings almost as dark as suicide. I opened the meeting, 
arose, and mechanically, without a thought as to what I would read, 
opened the Bible and saw the first chapter to the Ephesians and read, "We 
were chosen from before the foundation of the world, to the adoption of 
children by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God." Here now was the 
key of knowledge, and with it came the light of the Lord to fill my whole 
being. The visions of heaven were opened before me. I saw that all 
intelligence moved to the accomplishment of objects for their own 
greatness and glory, and to that end the earth was made, not upon the 
principle that nothing had put forth to beget something, but from matter 
as coexistent with spirit. I saw that the spirits of all men had been 
begotten and that they were the morning stars that sang together and 
shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid, for they saw 
that upon the earth they would receive tabernacles, through which they, 
like the Elder Brother would "descend below all things to arise above all 
things." And that as He was foreordained a Lamb slain for sin, also was it 
foreordained that man should sin; for if sin had not come there would 
have been no death, and without death no pain, sorrow and suffering; and 
without these there could be no joy and happiness; for as light is 
comprehended through darkness, so pleasure is bought by pain, its 
opposite. I saw that there is opposition to all things, and had there been 


no element of death there could have been no increase of life, "that man 
sinned that man might be, and that men might have joy," after tribulation. 

All these ideas, and many others I presented and elucidated in a 
discourse delivered in a vehement and powerful manner, of over three 
hours' length, while the congregation sat as if riveted to their seats, and 
not a move did 1 notice from the time 1 arose, until 1 took my seat, and 
even yet all sat still as if in a maze. 

But though all seemed to wonder, the marvel of no one could equal my 
own. To me it was as though from Egyptian darkness I had been suddenly 
brought into the light of the sun. The heavens had seemed opened to me, 
and of all 1 was the one most instructed. 1 knew it was all of the Lord 
because I had not desired the light for my own praise and glory. 

An old Methodist preacher came to me at the close and said, "My young 
friend, you have taken us beyond all of my comprehension but 1 cannot 
gainsay one word." The lady left the next day, seemed very thoughtful, 
and treated me with the greatest respect, but she was of wealth and 
position, and I thought was sorrowful that all the great things she had 
learned were through so low and poor a people as the Mormons. 

About this time Mr. Walker asked me to go with him to the city of Erie 
for a sleigh ride, which I did, and found a Methodist revival going on. His 
business was at the publishing house of the Universalist Champion 
Spafford, noted for great learning, and as we came into his large store, we 
found him and a Methodist priest in earnest debate on Bible doctrines. 
The room was full of people, and all were eager to see how it would end, 
or who would first "back down," as they termed it. And it was proposed 
by spectators that the first one to draw out from the discussion should 


"forfeit a shilling." The Methodist had already become restive, and wished 
to get away, and drawing nearer and nearer the door, finally took his hat 
from the counter and slipped out. 1 sat in the corner with cap pulled low 
over my face and listened to Spafford's remarks of self flattery as to the 
ease with which all advocates of future reward and punishment could be 
defeated, until at length I asked if I might ask him a few questions, saying, 
"You might ask me afterwards as many as you please." He said, "Certainly, 
ask as many as you like." 

"I wish," I said, "to know if your religion is all reward in future life, and 
no punishment." He said, "Yes, all is reward in the after life." I continued, 
"You believe the last fixed state of man is better than this earthly state can 
be?" "Yes," said he, "the last state of all mankind will be better than this 
state can be." I then quoted to him the words of Jesus, "When the unclean 
spirit is gone out of a man," etc. and its return, "the last state of that man 
is worse than the first," and also II Peter, 2nd to 20th verses. He stopped 
as though he had struck a sawyer, waited a moment, and all saw he was 
beaten, and raised the same shout to him, to pay the shilling. He then 
came to me pleasantly, asked my name, who I was, what was my religion, 
etc., wanted me to stop for a week with him, found I was a Mormon, and 
insisted on my staying to preach. But I had appointments, and the city of 
Erie had been harvested by greater minds long ago, and 1 must return. 
When I left he forced upon me books to peruse, which 1 returned without 
reading, and I have never seen him since. 

For some weeks after my arrival in Erie County as a rule I held 
meetings somewhere each day, often preaching two and at times three 
sermons in one day, which in general were from two to three hours in 
length, and the time I occupied at that period in vehement speaking 
seems now almost incredible. Besides this, where I stayed people would 


keep me talking often long past midnight. Often I was admonished by 
those who listened to me that 1 was killing myself, for the great exercise 
of mind so impaired my digestion that I could not eat. One cookie 
crumbed into my coffee in the morning was my breakfast, and the same, 
or a fried cake with tea was my supper for weeks. I was very thin and 
pale, but full of spiritual life and abundant energy. 

With the most of the people it was the excitement of novelty. Their 
preachers had killed their own influence, and now they wanted someone 
to follow. It was not really the truth they were after, it was the sensation 
of something new, and as it drew towards springtime the calls for 
preaching began to die away. There was a general desire for me to settle 
there, and preach for a good salary, which all parties would contribute to 
pay, and give me a good support; and like the devil upon the mount I 
could have all the world if I would turn away from God and duty. But I 
knew it was a trick to flatter my pride and to lead me away. 

My time now was not so occupied in preaching and my strength and 
appetite began to return, and being now much at home, I assisted Mr. 
Walker in his store, and also obtained material and made through the 
summer a few sets of harness, with trunks, saddlery, etc., but I could not 
resist the feeling that such occupation here was beneath my calling. 
Learning that Brother and Sister Babbitt with my youngest sister had 
returned to Kirtland, Mr. Walker kindly offered to take me in his carriage 
to Kirtland on a visit, which he did. Soon after our return they came to 
Pennsylvania to see me, to induce me, if possible, to return with them 
which 1 soon arranged to do, and left for Kirtland, where Brother Babbitt 
was then residing. 1 soon obtained means to start a small business in 
saddlery in Kirtland. 




At this time my home was with Mr. Babbitt, with my two sisters. 
Closely associated with my younger sister, as a student in the Academy at 
Kirtland was a young lady, Melissa B. LeBaron. She was an orphan, and in 
appearance, education and ease of manner, had no equal in the vicinity, 
and it was said there was a money legacy due and waiting her claim in a 
Rochester, New York, city bank. After making her acquaintance I 
perceived my society was not unpleasant, and as I was then highly 
respected as a successful missionary, and she, a young heiress, beloved by 
all who knew her, my friends hoped we would make a wedding to please 
them as well as ourselves. 

It had been constantly before me that I should return home to the 
Church and my home in the West. I now applied myself earnestly to 
obtain means for my intended journey. Quite a large Branch had again 
been organized in Kirtland, and Bishop G — [Oliver Granger] had been 
sent East by the Prophet to raise means to pay for lands that had been 
bought at Nauvoo, and so brought his family back to Kirtland. He was a 
man of eminent capability, but had suffered greatly by intemperance, 
which habit, after obtaining money, overcame him again, and so the 
money was squandered. He took dropsy and soon died. 

Brother Babbitt had started quite extensively in merchandising, and 
Brother W. W. Phelps being there, it was designed to publish a paper. In 
fact, quite a feeling began to arise for again settling at, and building up of 
Kirtland, and for a time all appeared hopeful for a home and a business 
future to those whose duty, privilege or choice it was to stay there. But to 
me it did not seem like a home for the faithful and true Latter-day Saints. I 
was now often in the society of the friend and associate of my sister 


Melissa LeBaron, "the heiress," as she was called, and I saw she was not 
averse to me, and 1 could look upon her with a feeling of pride. 1 felt 
attracted toward Melissa LeBaron, and as this feeling grew, it drew us 
naturally more together, to become better acquainted. Here was one the 
Lord had placed right before me, a young lady of culture and refinement, 
and a good L. D. Saint, who was ready in the coming season to go with me 
to the gathering place of the Saints. 1 knew the Lord had proved me in 
virtue and honesty towards those whom 1 had loved, and 1 could feel that 
He had brought her there for me, and I was just as certain what her 
answer would be before, as I was after I asked her to be my wife. It 
seemed to me the Lord had remembered that whatever I had earned I had 
cheerfully contributed, in assisting his Saints from Missouri, and in caring 
for and supplying the sick at Nauvoo, as also those of the Kirtland Camp. 

I had now been two years on a mission and was returning home poor, 
and now the Lord had brought to me one that had enough to pay for all 
these sacrifices, one who seemed pleased to lay all down at my feet. 

On Christmas day we were to be married, and so many were our 
friends, and such the interest taken in preparations that one might have 
thought it was everybody's wedding, instead of that of an unpretending 
and humble couple. 

We were married by Brother Babbitt in the house in which the Prophet 
lived in Kirtland, and all its rooms were crowded. The only thing worthy 
of note, besides festivity and general mirth was the division of the 
company into separate rooms. The married people claimed us now, which 
was disputed by the unmarried, who insisted, that as bride and groom we 
still belonged to them. Each party laid hold of me to make good their 
claim, and before they knew it they had pulled me speechless, and really 


came near killing me with their kindness. So we were at liberty to enjoy, 
and be enjoyed by both as suited us best. 

About this time it began to be understood that the policy of again 
building up Kirtland was not approved by the authorities at Nauvoo, and 
soon came the revelation in which the Lord speaks of his servant, Almon 
W. Babbitt, as "making a golden calf" at Kirtland. [D&C 124:84] So came to 
an end the hope of remaining there, and business of course must go 
down, as those who were true Saints would soon gather to the West. 
Brother Babbitt now saw that he would be broken up in business. He felt 
hurt by the rebuke in the revelation, and he was in great temptation to 
complain, and to turn his heel upon the Prophet. 1 now saw it wisdom by 
every influence to keep him from an unwise step and induce him to 
return to Nauvoo. He had bought many notes and claims against the 
Prophet or the church, and with these he might be tempted to do a great 
wrong to himself; and such was my love for him that I felt to make any 
sacrifice to promote his love for the gospel and his fellowship in the 
Church. He now began to study law, wishing me to do the same, and 
proposed that we buy together a small law library. I consented, that I 
might be the nearer to him and better able to hold an influence over him 
for his own good. As myself and wife had to make a visit to her native 
place, Leroy, and go to Rochester to obtain the money due her, we invited 
Brother and Sister Babbitt to go with us. Obtaining a carriage and outfit 
we left for the east about the last of January to visit our friends and 
preach, as opportunity might open on the way. 

On application for the legacy due my wife, it was found that through an 
order from Brother J. L. Holman, her guardian, her interest money to the 
amount of some four hundred dollars had been drawn by Bishop G., 
besides household goods of much value, left her by her mother, all 


squandered by him in dissipation, leaving only the principal, which we 

But while Brother G. possessed eminent abilities and was beloved and 
trusted by the Prophet, yet the way of the transgressor is hard, and today 
there is not a lineal representative of his in the Church. 

About the time of his sickness and death a spirit of fanaticism arose 
and formed a party, who adopted him as its oracle, and almost as their 
God; claimed he had revealed to them the celestial law of marriage. Some 
of them being of the respectable and more wealthy class, I was induced 
on one occasion to attend their meeting, and being astonished at their 
doctrines 1 rebuked the spirit they were of, and by prophecy told them 
that without speedily turning from it, they would become disgraceful 
maniacs upon the streets, which proved more than true, as the same 
week men and women of previous respectability were now in free love, 
disgracefully and insanely mixed up in the public street-- apparently a 
trick of the devil to forestall with disgrace and bring contempt upon a 
sacred and holy law that the Lord was about to reveal through His 
Prophet in Nauvoo. 

Brother Babbitt had now concluded to close up business in Kirtland 
and return west as soon as he could do so, to facilitate which 1 advanced 
money to pay his pressing liabilities, and while he would go east we 
would start west with suitable outfit, accompanied by his wife, my father 
and younger sister, and he, coming by water, would meet us at Nauvoo, 
bringing from Cincinnati and St. Louis goods to start business in 


We left Kirtland the first of June 1842 and with the beautiful weather 
and good roads, we had hopes of a safe and pleasant journey. But our 
animals were young and spirited and we had need both to watch and 
pray, for we were often in great danger. An incident or two I will relate to 
show that the Angel promised was always near. Soon after our start, our 
horses still fresh and mettlesome, descended a long, steep and dangerous 
dugway, with my wife and sister in the wagon. Just at the bottom as I 
drew rein upon the level, the ring from the neck-yoke with the wagon 
tongue dropped to the ground. The thought of the certainty of deaths had 
it dropped a minute before, almost dazed me--but the Angel was there. 
Another day, on appearance of a storm we put up at a tavern. I drove the 
covered wagon in which my wife and self slept, under a large swinging 
signboard hung between heavy posts, my father and sisters finding rooms 
in the tavern while we occupied the wagon. In the terrible night storm 
lightning shattered posts and signboard, piling the debris upon the front 
of the wagon. Although for a time we felt ourselves killed, we were out all 
right in the morning, with the footprints of the same Angel clearly in view. 

But with all past experience I had a lesson yet to learn. We were just 
over the Illinois line in the prairie country and it was the Sabbath. We had 
driven hard all the week and needed rest, yet our anxiety was so great to 
get to our friends that although we knew the Lord had said, "Thou shalt 
rest on the Sabbath," yet in our haste we did not do so, and driving until 
noon we crossed a deep creek, on the opposite bank of which was an 
open space of beautiful grass, surrounded by timber and high brush. Our 
teams were tired, and heretofore on the road had given no evidence that 
they were easily frightened or disposed to run away. So driving into the 
tall grass 1 slipped off their bridles, as I had often done before. But no 
sooner had I done so than they began to show signs of fright, and 
commenced to plunge and start to run. My father was just doing the same 


with his buggy horse, and my sisters stood holding the span attached to 
the family carriage. 1 did all possible to quiet my team but they broke 
away. My father's did the same; the others broke from the women, and all 
went tearing through the timber and brush until every vehicle was 
smashed and with goods and harness strung piece-meal for three-fourths 
of a mile around. A greater smash up it was never my bad luck to see. At 
first 1 looked upon the wreck as impossible to reconstruct, but we 
gathered up and put the parts together and got all mechanical help 
possible, labored hard, and by the next Sabbath day we had so far 
reconstructed our vehicles that by noon we hitched up, and feeling again 
tempted through anxiety we drove fifteen miles to early camp, but when 
unhitching our horses they again--all but one--took fright, took the back 
track, and as though spurred by the Evil One ran the whole distance to 
our former camp. Upon the horse left I followed with utmost speed and 
found them with legs terribly lacerated by the tug chains, and streaming 
with blood and sweat. I made no stop, but hurried them back as fast as I 
could ride, arriving in camp just before sunset, and was up much of the 
night bathing the bruised legs of the animals, and telling the Lord if He 
would now forgive me and give us His blessing for the rest of our journey 
I would promise never to forget the experience of those two Sabbath 

We started early the next morning, and with all the fatigue and bruises, 
our animals seemed all right, and made us no trouble afterwards. I knew 
then and I know now that this experience was given to me of the Lord for 
my profit, and to record as a testimony to my children, that the Lord will 
not hold in favor those who do not rest upon and hallow the Sabbath day. 

We arrived at Ramus, afterwards Macedonia, twenty miles east of 
Nauvoo, first of July, where lived my mother with younger children, my 


brother, Joel H., and family, and brother, Joseph E., who had married in 
my absence, and my younger sister, Mary E., who had married George 

There had come another bereavement, another wave of sorrow for us 
all as a family. Our youngest brother, Amos P., who had always been 
delicate and had suffered from sciatic rheumatism through nearly the 
whole period of my absence, had died but a few weeks previous to my 
return. He was bright and most lovable, and being the youngest was the 
darling of my poor mother whose loving heart had so often been made to 
bow to the sorrows of bereavement. He was born January 15, 1829, and 
died May 9, 1842, in his fourteenth year. 

My return after an absence of two and a half years of such varied 
experience, was a time of glad greeting for all. I had left home when but a 
boy in experience, the uneducated one-starting while sick and without 
money; and truly, that promised Angel had been with me, to preserve my 
life and to open the way for my return in health, not now alone, for a 
loved and loving wife accompanied me. I was not now so poor, and I felt 
truly the Lord had given me more than I had earned and repaid all my 

1 soon visited Nauvoo, and 1 saw the Prophet, who cordially welcomed 
my return with renewed blessing. I conversed with him upon the 
business matters between him and Brother Babbitt, told him it had been a 
time of test to Brother Babbitt's integrity, but with his arm around him I 
felt he would remain true to the cause. He said he loved Brother Babbitt, 
that he was capable of great good, and that the troubles should all be 
bridged over, and Brother Babbitt should have no reason to complain. It 
was the first time I had ever spoken to the Prophet with feelings and 


opinions of my own, and he seemed to love me more, because of my love 
for Brother Babbitt, and told me, that as Brother Babbitt arrived we 
should come together and see him, which we were able to do in a few 
days. We found Brother Joseph in a happy mood and glad to see Brother 
Babbitt. When business matters were brought forward relating to notes 
bought from outsiders against him or the Church, Brother Joseph said to 
him, "Now, Brother Almon, we will not disagree, for here is Brother 
Benjamin; you have all confidence in him and so have 1; and now let us 
leave all our differences to him and stand by it, and be good friends 
forevermore," to which Brother Babbitt agreed. 

All was settled at once, and all papers between them were placed in my 
hands, which then included the Church property in Kirtland, and the 
Prophet said then that he wished me to remain in Ramus, as it was then 
called, and act as trustee or agent for the Church property at that place, 
consisting of the then surveyed town plat and all the lands around the 
town site. He then made and executed to me a power of attorney to use 
his name in buying, selling, and deeding property, which power 1 held and 
acted upon fully until the day of his martyrdom. Brother Babbitt had 
bought a fine stock of merchandise with which to start business, and as 
the troubles at Kirtland had complicated him financially, and wishing to 
associate our business, by power of attorney all transactions were in my 
name. At this time Brigham Young, then President of the Twelve, wished 
to send me to Pittsburgh, to preside over and take charge of the branches 
of the Church in that region. But my business outlook at home was 
flattering, and I felt I should carefully look after the means that had come 
to me. So like the "young man" with the Savior, 1 was a little sorrowful, 
but secretly felt it was the road to real usefulness. But when 1 told Brother 
Joseph, he said, "Tell Brother Brigham that Brother Joseph says, 'send 


someone else.'" But I always felt that he discerned my choice and decided 

I was now selling goods, keeping a tavern, and doing all the Church 
business for that town, which was second only to Nauvoo, and I was 
growing not a little into the idea of getting rich. Yet I did not forget that I 
was an elder, and not only took part in our meetings at home, but as often 
as 1 found opportunity 1 would preach in the surrounding country to the 
outside community. The Prophet often came to our town, but after my 
arrival, he lodged in no house but mine, and I was proud of his partiality 
and took great delight in his society and friendship. When with us, there 
was no lack of amusement; for with jokes, games, etc., he was always 
ready to provoke merriment, one phase of which was matching couplets 
in rhyme, by which we were at times in rivalry; and his fraternal feeling, 
in great degree did away with the disparity of age or greatness of his 

1 can now see, as President George A. Smith afterwards said, that 1 was 
then really "the bosom friend and companion of the Prophet Joseph." I 
was as welcome at the Mansion as at my own house, and on one occasion 
when at a full table of his family and chosen friends, he placed me at his 
right hand and introduced me as his "friend, Brother B. F. Johnson, at 
whose house he sat at a better table than his own." Sometimes when at 
my house I asked him questions relating to past, present and future; some 
of his answers were taken by Brother William Clayton, who was then 
present with him, and are now recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants; 
the one as to what the Lord told him in relation to seeing his face at 85 
years of age; also the one as to the earth becoming as a sea of glass, 
molten with fire. [D&C 130: 9, 14-17] Other questions were asked when 
Brother Cla5^on was not present, one of which I will relate: I asked where 


the nine and a half tribes of Israel were. "Well," said he, "you remember 
the old caldron or potash kettle you used to boil maple sap in for sugar, 
don't you?" I said yes. "Well," said he, "they are in the north pole in a 
concave just the shape of that kettle. And John the Revelator is with them, 
preparing them for their return." Many other things of a public or private 
nature I might here record, but will only note one or two, those pertaining 
to our own family. 

In Macedonia the Johnsons were quite numerous and influential and 
the envious dubbed us the "Royal Family." When Joseph heard of this 
honor conferred upon us by our neighbors, he said the name was and 
should be a reality; that we were a royal family; and he knowing the 
intemperance of my father, said that he should yet be a great man and 
stand at the head of kingdom. On one occasion he blessed my mother and 
told her that not one of all her children should ever leave the Church; 
which, up to this, the year 1894, has been the case; and now as a family 
we number not less than one thousand, not one of the kindred by blood 
has ever yet apostatized that I know of. 

In talking with my mother after the revelation [D&C 132] on plural 
marriage was given, he told her that when the Lord required him to move 
in plural marriage, that his first thought was to come and ask her for 
some of her daughters; and 1 can now understand that the period alluded 
to was at Kirtland, where she had three unmarried daughters at home, 
two of whom died there, and Almira, the other, was sealed to him in 
Nauvoo; the other two, Nancy M. and Susan E., being sealed to him by 
proxy since his death. 

As I have alluded to the law of plural marriage [D&C 132] I will relate 
the time and manner in which it was taught to me. 


About the first of April, 1843, the Prophet with some of the Twelve and 
others came to Macedonia to hold a meeting, which was to convene in a 
large cabinet shop owned by Brother Joseph E. and myself, and as usual 
he put up at my house. Early on Sunday morning he said, "Come Brother 
Bennie, let us have a walk." I took his arm and he led the way into a by- 
place in the edge of the woods surrounded by tall brush and trees. Here, 
as we sat down upon a log he began to tell me that the Lord had revealed 
to him that plural or patriarchal marriage was according to His law; and 
that the Lord had not only revealed it to him but had commanded him to 
obey it; that he was required to take other wives; and that he wanted my 
Sister Almira for one of them, and wished me to see and talk to her upon 
the subject. If a thunderbolt had fallen at my feet I could hardly have been 
more shocked or amazed. He saw the struggle in my mind and went on to 
explain. But the shock was too great for me to comprehend anything, and 
in almost an agony of feeling 1 looked him squarely in the eye, and said, 
while my heart gushed up before him, "Brother Joseph, this is all new to 
me; it may all be true— you know, but 1 do not. To my education it is all 
wrong, but I am going, with the help of the Lord to do just what you say, 
with this promise to you--that if ever I know you do this to degrade my 
sister I will kill you, as the Lord lives." He looked at me, oh, so calmly, and 
said, "Brother Benjamin, you will never see that day, but you shall see the 
day you will know it is true, and you will fulfill the law and greatly rejoice 
in it." And he said, "At this morning's meeting, I will preach you a sermon 
that no one but you will understand. And furthermore, I will promise you 
that when you open your mouth to your sister, it shall be filled." 

At the meeting he read the parable of the Talents, and showed plainly 
that to him that hath shall be given more, and from him that had but one 
should be taken that he seemed to have, and given to him who had ten. 


This, so far as I could understand, might relate to families, but to me there 
was a horror in the idea of speaking to my sister upon such a subject, the 
thought of which made me sick. But 1 had promised, and it must be done. I 
did not remember his words, and have faith that light would come, I only 
thought, "How dark it all looks to me.' But I must do it, and so told my 
sister I wished to see her in a room by herself, where I soon found her 
seated. 1 stood before her trembling, my knees shaking, but 1 opened my 
mouth and my heart opened to the light of the Lord, my tongue was 
loosened and I was filled with the Holy Ghost. I preached a sermon that 
forever converted me and her also to the principle, even though her heart 
was not yet won by the Prophet. And so I had great joy after my 

He had asked me to bring my sister to the city, which I soon did, where 
he saw her at my sister's, the Widow Sherman, who had already been 
sealed to him by proxy. His brother, Hyrum, said to me, "Now, Brother 
Benjamin, you know that Brother joseph would not sanction this if it was 
not from the Lord. The Lord revealed this to Brother Joseph long ago, and 
he put it off until the Angel of the Lord came to him with a drawn sword 
and told him that he would be slain if he did not go forth and fulfill the 
law." He told my sister to have no fears, and he there and then sealed my 
sister, Almira, to the Prophet. 

Soon after this he was at my house again, where he occupied my Sister 
Almira's room and bed, and also asked me for my youngest sister, Esther 
M. I told him she was promised in marriage to my wife's brother. He said, 
"Well, let them marry, for it will all come right." 

The orphan girl-Mary Ann Hale— that my mother had raised from a 
child, was now living with us, of nearly the same age as my sister, and I 


asked him if he would not Hke her, as well as Almira. He said, "No, but she 
is for you. You keep her and take her for your wife and you will be 
blessed." This seemed like hurrying up my blessings pretty fast, but the 
spirit of it came upon me, and from that hour I thought of her as a wife 
that the Lord had given me. 

In lighting him to bed one night he showed me his garments and 
explained that they were such as the Lord made for Adam from skins, and 
gave me such ideas pertaining to endowments as he thought proper. He 
told me Freemasonry, as at present, was the apostate endowments, as 
sectarian religion was the apostate religion. 

In the evening he called me and my wife to come and sit down, for he 
wished to marry us according to the Law of the Lord. I thought it a joke, 
and said I should not marry my wife again, unless she courted me, for I 
did it all the first time. He chided my levity, told me he was in earnest, and 
so it proved, for we stood up and were sealed by the Holy Spirit of 

This occurrence is referred to in the life of Joseph Smith as "Spending 
the evening in giving counsel to Brother Johnson and wife." At this time I 
knew that the Prophet had as his wives, Louisa Beeman, Eliza R. Snow, 
Maria and Sarah Lawrence, Sisters Lyon and Dibble, one or two of Bishop 
Partridge's daughters, and some of C. P. Lott's daughters, together with 
my own two sisters. And I also knew that Brother J. Bates Noble and 
others had plural wives, and that the Prophet had sealed to me my first 
and had given to me a second to be my wife. And 1 knew of other things in 
the Prophet's life and teachings that 1 will not now write, but 1 do so well 
remember his declarations in the meetings of the Saints, that the Lord 


had revealed to him principles, that should he teach and practice them, 
those who were now his best friends would become his bitterest enemies. 

This was already becoming apparent, and the end of his labors in this 
life, with the hope of the rest prepared for the faithful was now beginning 
to fill is weary soul. On one occasion, at Macedonia, after he had preached 
to a large congregation through the day, and at evening meeting had 
blessed nineteen children, he said to me, "Let us go home." We went 
home, and I found my wife sitting with our first born still unblessed and 
said, "See now what we have lost by our babe not being at meeting. 
Brother Joseph repHed, "You shall lose nothing, for I will bless him too," 
which he did, and then sitting back heavily in a big chair before the fire, 
and with a deep-drawn breath said, "Oh! 1 am so tired-so tired that I 
often feel to long for my day of rest. For what has there been in this life 
but tribulation for me? From a boy I have been persecuted by my 
enemies, and now even my friends are beginning to join with them, to 
hate and persecute me! Why should 1 not wish for my time of rest?" 

His words to me were ominous, and they brought a shadow as of death 
over my spirit, and I said, "Oh, Joseph! how could you think of leaving us? 
How as a people could we do without you?" He saw my feehngs were 
sorrowful and said kindly, "Bennie, if 1 was on the other side of the veil 1 
could do many times more for my friends than 1 can do while 1 am with 
them here." But the iron had gone into my soul, and I felt that in his words 
there was a meaning that boded sorrow, and I could not forget them. 

In the spring of 1843 1 had commenced to erect a large brick residence, 
and when my sister came to be his wife, since she lived with us, he wished 
to become part owner for her, and so it was arranged, that I should draw 


on him for his share, or use proceeds of sales of Church property, all of 
which, though only verbal, was mutual between us. 

Apostate spirits within were now joining with our enemies outside for 
the destruction of the priesthood, for the Temple was progressing, and 
the devil, striving for empire began to stir up, in them as in Judas, desire 
for the Prophet's blood. The keys of endowments and plural marriage had 
been given, and some had received their Second Anointing. Baptism for 
the dead had been taught and the keys committed. All of these things I 
then comprehended, though in some I had not fully participated. These 
sacred principles were then committed to but a few, but not only were 
they committed to me from the first, but from the first 1 was authorized 
by the Prophet to teach them to others, when I was led to do so. 

I was now progressing with my building, and had over 100,000 bricks 
in its walls, besides cut stone. I was still selling goods, with a cabinet shop, 
was burning brick and lime, and attending to my calling as trustee, when 
traitors inside joined with outside enemies to destroy the Prophet. All of 
this is written in church history, so I need not repeat. 

At this time Father John Smith lived at and was President at 
Macedonia, and by him 1 was ordained to the high priesthood. When he 
was sent for by the Prophet to receive the Patriarchal Priesthood, 1 
accompanied him to Nauvoo for that purpose, and obtained indirectly his 
first blessing. My mother having finally separated from my father, by the 
suggestion or counsel of the Prophet, she accepted of and was sealed by 
him to Father John Smith. In this 1 felt not a little sorrow, for 1 loved my 
father and knew him to be naturally a kind and loving parent, a just and 
noble spirited man. But he had not obeyed the Gospel, had fought it with 
his words; and as I knew a stream must have a fountain and does not rise 


above it, so I consoled myself, assured by the Prophet's words that a 
better day would come to my father. 

The days of tribulation were now fast approaching, for just as the 
Prophet so often told us, so it came to pass; and those he had called 
around him as a cordon of safety and strength were worse than a rope of 
sand, and were now forging his fetters. William Law was his first 
counselor; Wilson Law, Major General of the Legion; Wm. Marks, 
President of the Stake; the Higbies, his confidential attorneys, and Dr. 
Foster, his financial business agent. All of these and many others entered 
into secret covenant so much worse than Judas, that they would have the 
Prophet's life, just in fulfillment of what he had said so often publicly. 
With all their power, they began to make a party strong enough to 
destroy the Prophet. 

At one of the meetings in the presence of the Quorum of the Twelve 
and others who were encircled around him, he arose, gave a review of his 
life and sufferings, and of the testimonies he had borne, and said that the 
Lord had now accepted his labors and sacrifices, and did not require him 
longer to carry the responsibilities and burden and bearing of this 
kingdom. Turning to those around him, including the twelve, he said, 
"And in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ 1 now place it upon my brethren 
of this council, and 1 shake my skirts clear of all responsibility from this 
time forth," springing from the floor and shaking his skirt at the same 
time. At this same meeting he related a dream of a night or two previous. 
He said he thought the Laws, the Higbies, Fosters and others had bound 
him and cast him into a deep well, and while there he heard terrible cries 
of anguish and loud calls for him. With his arms pinioned he worked his 
way by his elbows so he could look over the top, and saw all who had 
bound him with a terrible serpent just ready to devour them. He told 


them in his dream he gladly would help them, but they had bound him 
and he was powerless now to help them; and in his presence they were 
devoured by the serpent. 

These things with those previous, impressed me strongly with a feeling 
that some great change was near. In fact, the Prophet was often heard to 
speak of his being made a sacrifice by those who had been his friends. But 
this is my own life in review and not the Prophet's, yet at this time I was 
so fully occupied by and with him, and my business and feelings so joined 
to his, that I have little more than his history to write while he lived, to 
fully chronicle my own. 



The full break had now come in Nauvoo. The apostates had started to 
publish the "Nauvoo Expositor" which was destroyed by the police, and 
Joseph, being Mayor of the city, was held responsible for the act. Writs 
were issued from Carthage for the arrest of the Prophet and others at 
Nauvoo, from which he was released by habeas corpus by local legal 
authority. All hell now seemed in commotion. Mobs were rising in all the 
adjacent counties, with Missouri and Iowa in sympathy with our enemies. 
All conspired for the destruction of the Prophet, with his beautiful city 
and massive temple so fast nearing completion. 

Before this, the Prophet had foreshadowed the close of his own earthly 
mission, and the near approach of the time when the Saints in tribulation 
would find a place of refuge in the far-off vales of the Rocky Mountains, 
which has already taken place; and also relating still to the future, when a 
path will be opened for the Saints through Mexico, South America, and to 
the center Stake of Zion. 

These, and many more great things were given by him, some of which, 
as with the ancient disciples, we could not comprehend until fulfilled. 

It was now June 1844, and mobs were destroying property, burning 
homes of the Saints outside of Nauvoo, and threatening the city. Governor 
Ford ordered out troops to enforce the law, but they were not reliable, 
and all was excitement. On the 15th an order came for the able-bodied 
men at Macedonia to hasten to Nauvoo. On the 16th we started, and to 
avoid attack travelled all night across the prairie through mud, rain and 
darkness, terrible to those who were there. The Prophet came out to 
greet us. Here I remained a few days on duty, when I was sent by General 


Dunham, then in command, back to Macedonia to look after and keep up a 
home guard. 

It was now revealed to the Prophet that his only safety was in flight to 
the Rocky Mountains, and he crossed the river with a few faithful friends 
with a full purpose not to return. But through the persuasion and 
reproaches of his wife, Emma, and others, he was induced to return and 
give himself up to the slaughter. With all the persons who induced him to 
return I was well acquainted, and I know that fearful has been the hand of 
the Lord to follow them from the day they sought to steady the Ark of 
God, which resulted in the martyrdom of his servants. 

After returning to Macedonia 1 saw no more of Brothers Joseph and 
Hyrum, but learned early on June 28th of their assassination. To attempt 
to delineate the feelings of woe and unutterable sorrow that swelled 
every heart too full for tears, I need not attempt. I stood up, dazed with 
grief, could groan but could not weep. The fountain of tears was dry! "Oh 
God! what will thy orphan church and people now do!" was the only 
feeling or thought, that now burst out in groans. 

I did not go to see their mutilated bodies. I had no wish to look into 
their grave; 1 knew they were not there, and the words of Brother Joseph 
began to come back to me, "1 could do so much more for my friends if I 
were on the other side of the veil." These words, "my friends"--oh, how 
glad that he was my friend. These thoughts gradually gained the empire 
in my heart, and I began to realize that in his martyrdom there was a 
great eternal purpose in the heavens. But we were not able, as yet, to 
comprehend such a necessity. 1 could begin now to feel just what he 
meant, and his words, "do for his friends," to me, were like the promise of 
Jesus to provide mansions for his disciples that they might be with him 


always. These things now were my consolation, and when I could begin to 
rejoice in them, the fountains of my tears began to flow, and 1 grew in 
consolation from day to day. 

Our enemies, who, on accomphshing the murder fled in fear of 
Mormon vengeance, now began to return in boldness, and a mob came 
and searched my new building for arms, and to take me on a writ, as they 
had obtained evidence that I was a refugee from Missouri justice and was 
one of the incendiaries in Daviess County. For days I was hidden in the 
woods, where trusted friends brought me food and at times bore me 
company. By degrees the excitement and feeling for persecution seemed 
allayed, and we again had hope for a brief period of peace. But 1 had no 
confidence now in anything here as a future home, and there was a great 
financial depression in all kinds of business. I was broken up in 
Macedonia, and my home, though enclosed, was unfinished, although 
material was ready for its completion; but I had neither energy nor faith 
enough to invest in it another dollar. 

On November 14th Mary Ann Hale, given to me by the Prophet, was 
sealed to me as a plural wife by Father John Smith, as directed by 
President Brigham Young. But previous to this had transpired things 1 
should not omit to relate. 

At the time of the martyrdom all the Quorum of the Twelve were 
absent except John Taylor and Dr. Richards, both of whom were with the 
Prophet in the Carthage jail, and Sidney Rigdon having retained a partial 
fellowship as one of Joseph's counselors, came forward claiming the right 
of Guardian of the Church. James J. Strang also claimed through a spurious 
revelation purporting to be through the Prophet that he should lead the 
Church. And so matters stood until the return of the Twelve, when a 


conference was assembled, and President Rigdon was called upon to put 
forth his claim before the people, which he did, and after closing his 
remarks, which were void of all power or influence, President Brigham 
Young arose and spoke. I saw him arise, but as soon as he spoke I jumped 
upon my feet, for in every possible degree it was Joseph's voice, and his 
person, in look, attitude, dress and appearance was Joseph himself, 
personified; and 1 knew in a moment the spirit and mantle of Joseph was 
upon him. Then I remembered his saying to the Council of which Sidney 
Rigdon was never a member, and I knew for myself who was now the 
leader of Israel. New confidence and joy continued to spring up within 
me, and the subject of our finding a new home in the wilderness of the 
great West was one that occupied much of my thoughts. 

The cruel death of the Prophet now brought a new feeling and spirit 
over my father. Instead of joy in his death, he greatly sorrowed that he 
had ever been his enemy; he deplored his death and cursed bitterly his 
murderers, and would gladly have assisted in bringing them to justice, 
and this feeling never again left him. 

Now came upon us another family bereavement, June 11, 1845. My 
sister, Mary, just younger than myself, and my companion [married to 
Brother George Wilson while on my mission], had died at childbirth with 
her second infant. She dropped away before we could reach her, to 
receive her last adieus. But she, like the others, died in full assurance of 
the reward for the pure in heart of womankind. None could approach 
nearer to angelic character, in childhood, girlhood or womanhood, nor 
was there ever known from her associates one unkind word or feeling 
towards her, and she died as she had lived, beloved by all who knew her. 


The great idea now was to finish the Temple to the acceptance of the 
Lord, and prepare for the great move that the Saints now contemplated. 

I was now called by the Council to rent and keep open the Nauvoo 
Mansion, late home of the Prophet, and commenced arrangements to 
leave Macedonia, feeling I should never return there for a home. 

1 was still indebted in St. Louis for goods to the amount of $250 for 
which I was now being pressed, and to settle which, I gave a deed for my 
new brick building, with all needed material for completion that had cost 
me even thousands, together with seven city lots lying together on which 
it stood--all for that paltry sum, and then turned everything available in to 
pay rent and furnishings for the Mansion, to keep the Prophet's hotel to 
the credit of his name and his people. 

From a broad and prosperous business and good circumstances, I was 
now only a renter, with everything available invested in the furnishing 
and supplying of a public house, while trouble was again beginning to 
rise. The Temple was drawing near to completion. The devil was mad, 
and his servants had already begun driving the Saints in from the 
adjacent sections. I was now appointed one of the Captains of Fifty to 
organize a company to prepare cooperatively for a journey to the west, by 
constructing wagons, procuring teams, tents and general outfit. Public 
travel was now cut off and all business profits with it; yet our expenses 
were nearly the same, as the place must be kept open to receive county 
and state officials; as also people who came to inquire into the causes of 
our troubles. 

Among these were Judge Stephen A. Douglas, James Arlington Bennett 
of New York, and others, together with military officers sent by the 


Governor from time to time. So, instead of being profitable we were at 
great expense with small returns. 

I organized an emigration company and started wagon making in the 
basement story of the large brick stable belonging to the Mansion, and 
our hands were at work, but some of them had an eye more to their own 
than to the company's profit, which brought trouble and loss to me. The 
Temple was now open for endowments and sealings, and about 
December 1, 1845, a third wife. Miss Clarinda Gleason, was sealed to me. 

Here my real family troubles commenced. The third wife was much 
older than the second, and was of broad experience and capability. She 
was unwilling to be second to the younger, and was not satisfied with her 
proper place, and there was now discord in the family circle. 

Rumors of murders were rife. Jacob Backenstos, a man of sterling 
integrity for law and order, was sheriff, and boarded at the Mansion. By 
him or some of his posse, Frank Worrel, one of the mob leaders, was 
killed, and it was said others were found dead and it was reported that 
murders were committed at the Mansion stables--a suspicion prompted 
no doubt by our cooperative mechanics and laborers at work in and 
around its basement, then occupied as a wagon ship. 

The mob spirit still prevaihng, a posse was ordered from Carthage 
under military escort to explore the Mansion barn and stables for bodies 
of the dead, said to have been buried by the Mormons. They were soon 
convinced of the folly of their mission. 

I now had three wives and three children, and all means left from the 
Macedonia sacrifice had been expended in rent, furnishings, supplies and 


needed helps to keep the Mansion to its status of respectabihty. The time 
was drawing near when the Presidency would cross the river, and for me 
there would be no safety should 1 remain. President Young asked my 
condition and I told him all. He said I must go, and told Brother Hyrum 
Bostwick, one of my company, a man of means, to help me to an outfit. 
But his means were his own, and the outfit came too slow to get in sight. 
We were now invited to come to the Temple for our second anointing, but 
having the historic Gen. Arlington Bennett as the city's guest, with his 
associates to entertain, we were obliged to forego at that time the great 
privilege and blessing. 

1 was appointed with Bishop N. K. Whitney to visit Sister Emma for the 
last time, and if possible persuade her to remain with the Church. Nearly 
all night we labored with her, and all we could learn was that she was 
willing to go with the Church on condition she could be the leading Spirit. 
So we left her, and she did lead all who would follow her so long as she 

Letter to George S. Gibbs, 1903, Church Archives 

Source: Benjamin F. Johnson, Letter to George S. Gibbs, 1903, cited in E. 
Dale LeBaron, "Benjamin Franklin Johnson: Colonizer, Pubhc Servant, and 
Church Leader" [M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1967), pp. 325- 

Dear Brother: 

In resuming my answer to your scholarly and effusive epistle, I feel in 
every degree incompetent to the task. Especially do 1 feel the want of 
learning, and my writings, of course, must betray to you my poverty in 
classical education. Through childhood and early youth, my advantages, 
even for primary education, were the most meager. At seventeen, I 


attended the winter term of the grammar school taught by William E. 
McLellin, in Kirtland, and presided over by the Prophet; at the same time 
attending night lectures in geography. These were my greatest 
opportunities for schooling, and in them was finished my school 
education; and if I have acquired in life anything further of worth, it has 
been as snatched from the wayside while on the run as a missionary, 
pioneer or while in Nature's great laboratory with the axe, plow, spade or 
garden implements. 1 have been hard at work to provide sustenance for 
that flock which the Father has sent to my special care. And while it may 
be a degree common, even with the youth of Zion, whose advantages so 
far surpass their parents', to look upon the aged as "black numbers," "old 
fossils," or "mossbacks" , yet not one whit of that spirit do 1 feel in your 
letter, and my heart goes out toward you in love and blessing, as though 
you were indeed one of my own sons. And I most earnestly pray that the 
Lord will so inspire my thoughts and so awaken a remembrance of the 
past, that I may be able to write to you as by the voice of the spirit of my 
calling in the Priesthood of the fathers, of anything pertaining to the 
gospel principle or of our historic past, that may better equip you for that 
sphere of greater callings and responsibilities that await you as a son in 
Zion, in the lineage of Ephraim, and of the seed of the blessed. 

Yours thoughts in regard to the need of positive keys for interpreting 
our true position, condition and relation to the gospel, both in the past 
and for the future, strictly accord with my own, and to me it simply means 
that the spark of life or of light, brought with us at birth, through a 
cumulative experience, has attained its present status in intellectual and 
physical power. 

In infancy we were fed upon milk, and in childhood by a loving hand, 
while our mistakes were tenderly admonished. As we became older we 


began to grasp the principles and issues of physical life and the modes for 
its sustenance through labors of our hands; while the gospel, as an 
alphabet, with its possibilities of reaching every principle of truth and 
light within the great science of eternal lives, is given to us as spiritual or 
intellectual food, through which, by faith, we can forever grow in the 
knowledge and power of the Gods, to become in reality and fullness even 
the "Sons of God," with glory, exaltation, dominion and eternal 
progression, through the procreation of endless lives. 

And to how much of this greatness in knowledge and power have we 
yet attained? As well may little children in making their mud pottery 
claim perfection as sculptors, as for us to claim a fullness in the 
knowledge of Gospel principles, precepts, or powers. 

When were we, as a people, ever able fully to live by the law given to us 
of the Lord? In 1831 and '32' we were tried in Missouri with the Law of 
consecration, in which we failed; in '33' we were given, in Kirtland, the 
Order of Enoch and the Word of Wisdom. The Order of Enoch was not 
fully honored, and after seventy years experience in accumulating 
wisdom many are not yet wise. While through His mercy, the Lord in '36, 
gave us, when under His rod, the Law of Tithing in place of the former 
law, but how have we, as a people, fulfilled it? And again, when in '43' he 
gave us, by command the high and holy law of Plural Marriage, with the 
sealing power of the Holy Priesthood, did we, as a people, receive it in the 
spirit and purpose for which it was given? Or have we been slow in 
comprehending even the primary lessons and precepts of this life's 

And as for even our leaders being always filled with the light of their 
calling, to see the "end from the beginning," or always to discern correctly 


the thoughts and purposes of others, has not been, according to my 
experience or l^nowledge. Does not the Lord tell us in D&C 130, that the 
Holy Ghost may descend upon a man and not always remain with him? 
And do we not all, at times, feel that to be a reality, as did the Master, 
when through mental anguish He "sweat blood at every pore", as also 
when upon the cross He cried out in agony of soul to His Father to know 
why He was forsaken? And to show a change of mood, even in our great 
Head, witness Him entwining a rope and in anger scourging out 
merchants and money changers from the temple and kicking over their 
tables, and in a gush of resentment toward those who hated Him he cries 
out: "Oh you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, ye are of your father the 
devil, and his works ye do!" calling them "garnish sepulchres, full of dead 
men's bones", "robbers of widows and orphans, and oppressors of the 
poor"; and as though He would have them fight for the kingdom He had 
sent them to preach. He told those who had not swords "to sell their coats 
and buy one". But oh! how changed in feehng, when He, on the cross, 
could realize the enormity of their guilt and the greater sufferings 
consequent to them, and then with heart melted in pity for His murderers 
and those that hated Him, He cried to His Father with entreaty that they 
be forgiven. 

And just such phases, to a degree, have 1 witnessed in the life and 
character of our great Prophet, who stood in the presence of both the 
Father and the Son and personally conversed with them both; being often 
visited by Holy Angels, while continually receiving by revelation the word 
of the Lord to His people. And yet he was altogether of "like passions with 
his brethren and associates." 

"As a son, he was nobility itself, in love and honor of his parents; as a 
brother he was loving and true, even unto death; as a husband and father. 


his devotion to wives and children stopped only at idolatry. And his life's 
greatest motto after 'God and His Kingdom' was that of 'wives, children 
and friends'". And on one Sunday morning while sitting with him in the 
Mansion dining room in private converse, two of Emma's children came 
to him, as just from their mother, all so nice, bright and sweet, and calling 
to them my attention, he said, "Benjamin, look at these children, how 
could 1 help loving their mother; if necessary, 1 would go to hell for such a 
woman." And although at the time he had in the Mansion other wives, 
younger and apparently more brilliant, yet Emma, the wife of his youth, to 
me, appeared the queen of his heart and of his home. 

But to return: joseph the Prophet, as a friend he was faithful, long 
suffering, noble and true to the degree that the erring who did love him 
were at times reminded that the rod of a friend was better than the kiss of 
an enemy, "while others who sopped in his dish" but bore not reproof, 
became his enemies, and like Laws, Marks, Foster, Higby and others— who 
hated him and conspired to his death. 

As a companion, socially, he was highly endowed; was kind, generous, 
mirth loving, and at times, even convivial. He was partial to a well 
supplied table and he did not always refuse the wine that "maketh glad 
the heart". For amusement, he would sometimes wrestle with a friend, or 
oftener would test strength with others by sitting on the floor with feet 
together and stick grasped between them, but he never found his match. 
Jokes, rebuses, matching couplets in rhymes, etc., were not uncommon. 
But to call for the singing of one or more of his favorite songs was more 
frequent. Of those, "Wife, Children and Friends", "Battle of River Russen" , 
"Soldiers' Tear", "Soldier's Dream" and "Last Rose of Summer", were most 
common. And yet, although so social and even convivial at times, he 
would allow no arrogance or undue liberties, and criticism, even by his 


associates, was rarely acceptable, and contradiction would rouse in him 
the lion at once, for by no one of his fellows would he be superseded or 
disputed and in the early days at Kirtland, and elsewhere one or more of 
his associates were more than once, for their impudence, helped from the 
congregation by his (Joseph's) foot, and at one time at a meeting at 
Kirtland, for insolence to him, he soundly thrashed his brother William 
who boasted himself as invincible. And while with him in such fraternal, 
social and sometimes convivial moods, we could not then so fully realize 
the greatness and majesty of his calling, which, since his martyrdom, has 
continued to magnify in our lives, as the glories of this last dispensation 
more fully unfold to our comprehension. 

One small incident, among the many, I will relate to show his playful, 
familiar, kind and loving nature toward one who to him was as a protege 
or a younger brother. Soon after the Prophet's escape from Missouri and 
arrival at Old "Commerce," the future Nauvoo, in 1839, I was with him. 
The people had flocked in from the terrible exposures of the past and 
nearly every one was sick with intermittent or other fevers, of which 
many died. In this time of great sickness, poverty and death, the Prophet 
called his brother, Don Carlos, and cousin, G. A. Smith, as missionaries to 
administer to and comfort the people. And there being there two young 
Botanic medical students Doctors Wiley and Pendleton, he called them to 
prescribe medicine, and called me to follow and take general oversight 
and care of all the sick, which for weeks, I did, without even one night of 
respite for sleep. The forepart of September, Dr. Wiley became sick unto 
death, which soon occurred, after which the Prophet too had a violent 
attack of the prevailing sickness. And as Emma was in no degree able to 
care for him, it wholly developed upon me, and both day and night, 
through a period of little less than two weeks I was hardly absent from 
his room; as almost his only food was gruel, and about the only treatment 


he would accept was a flush of the colon with warm water perhaps 
tinctured slightly with capsicum and myrrh, or a little soda and salt, both 
of which were prepared and administered by me in the room he 
occupied; and if any sleep came to me it was while lying upon his bed or 
sitting in my chair. At the termination of this sickness and fasting, he 
arose from his bed like a lion, or as a giant refreshed with wine. He went 
to President Rigdon with great reproof, commanding him and his house 
to repent; and called for a skiff, crossed the river, and finding Elijah 
Fordham in death's struggle, he commanded him to arise, which he did at 
once, and was made whole as also were others by his administrations. 

But 1 am writing at too great length. Soon after the Prophet's recovery I 
too came apparently nigh unto death through a violent attack of the fever, 
through which my comfort was kindly looked after by the Prophet. 

About the middle of October a letter came to say that my dear mother 
and young sister were apparently near to death, in Springfield Illinois, 
and were anxious for my return. And in my anxiety again to see my 
mother, I procured quinine, which was just becoming known as an 
antidote for fevers and taking it in large doses, my fever soon abated, and 
under it's tonic influence I fancied I had become well, and in great 
kindred at Springfield. My horse was in the yard ready to mount, but 1 
wished to take leave of the Prophet, with the hope again to receive his 
blessing. Of the whole sum I had obtained with which to pay for an outfit 
and passage to England, with the twelve, when they should start, to which 
I had been called by the June Conference at Quincy, "I had but one ten 
dollar bill, 1 said, "As this is all 1 have left, 1 went to pay a tithe of it." He 
saw 1 was weak in body and that my heart was sad in leaving him, so 
thinking to cheer and arouse me, when putting the nine silver dollars in 
my hand he playfully knocked my hand upward, and scattering the money 


all over the room. My heart was so full of tears, and my emotions must 
have vent, so forgetting all but the feeling that we were boy companions 
playing together, I sprang at and grappled him, as though to teach him a 
lesson, but the lesson was all to me, for on making one grand effort to 
throw him, I found myself in strength no more than a bulrush as 
compared with him, and as my strength was fictitious and my real 
recovery was but illusion, collapsed and fainted in his arms. He placed me 
in repose, and did all necessary for my restoration and comfort. Then 
gathering up the scattered money, and after a period of delay, weak, 
trembling and desolate, yet determined to start, I led my horse to the 
other gate and as I was passing through, with the bridle on my arm, his 
hand detained me, and placing his hands upon my head, he seemed to 
pour out his soul in blessing me. He told the Lord 1 had been faithful to 
care for others, that I was now worn and sick, and that on my journey I 
would need his care, and he asked that a special guardian might go with 
me from that day and stay with me through all my life. And oh! my dear 
brother, how often have 1 seen through life and footprints of that angel, 
and knew that his hand had drawn me back from death. 

The day after leaving Nauvoo my fever returned with all of its 
virulence. The next day, near night, I was found by the Prophet's brother 
William, lying helpless by the roadside, and the next evening 1 was found 
by strangers, being unconscious in the road, who kindly cared for me 
until I could again get upon my horse to finish the journey to my mother 
in Springfield, where I soon arrived, and remained very sick until 
Apostles Young and Kimball came in January to find me apparently nigh 
unto death with hemorrhage of the bowels. At leaving, they told me to 
take a mission East so soon as able to start, which 1 did through kindness 
of Brother James Standing, who, upon my bed in a sleigh took me a 
hundred and ten miles to Paris, Illinois. Turning home on bare ground, he 


left me in deep mud, alone, and near penniless, sick and among strangers, 
while borne to the earth by a burden of bashful ignorance— the long 
green of young manhood; but my "Angel" was always with me to open the 

Now you see how I have wandered from the subject of your "Three 
Keys," but you said you wanted to learn more of my history and 
personalities, so what I have written may serve as a glimpse of my earlier 

Now, returning to the subject, shall I tell you that just the other day at 
Quarterly Conference one of our best missionary speakers was led to say 
that "our Gospel was revealed as a whole, and not fragmentary", and 1 felt 
to tell him that the Gospel had not only been given to us by fragments, but 
that of the great science of Eternal Lives, we have not yet received or 
learned more than it's alphabet; and perfection here can only exist in 
parts or degrees. And while the Holy Ghost may not always remain upon a 
man, may not even a prophet to whom it was not yet all revealed, make 
mistakes, as in the baptism for the dead, and also in the prophet sermon 
at the funerals of a child of Winzor Lyon and King Follett, when he 
preached that children, "even infants, would sit upon thrones with 
dominion," which was published in the "Times and Seasons" at the time, 
but which, like President Woodruff, 1 am positive he afterwards 
reconsidered. And those who were with him in Kirtland, Missouri and 
Nauvoo, will remember many things in which his sanguine and prophetic 
hopes seemed disappointed. 

The Prophet Joseph laid the foundation of our Church in a military 
spirit, and as the Master taught His disciples, so he taught us to "sell our 
coat and buy swords", but never did the sword fully prevail with us, not 


even with the Indians, and never before were we apparently so safe from 
them, or our outside enemies, as since the Lord, through the government, 
permitted us to be robbed of armed self protection; and even our mission 
martyrs have generally been murdered after a show of resistance. And 
are we not beginning to see that charity is the life and core of our 
religion? and that love is the great life spring and centrifugal power of the 
universe, and in our gospel there appears no place for hate or 
resentment,-not even towards those that would nail us to the cross. 

Yet neither in Kirtland, Missouri or Nauvoo, did we fully comply with 
this rule, and even in Utah many were left to cherish toward our poor 
lamanite brethren, vindictiveness and hate; and in Missouri by Apostle 
Lyman Wight we were taught to "pray for our enemies," that God would 
damn them, and "give us power to kill them". And while "three witnesses" 
with his counsellors and many of the apostles with their president, as also 
many others of our leading men, had turned their "heel against the 
Prophet, how could he, in such disunion and enmity, always be strong in 
the might of his calling? And as the "eyes" of the Church, betrayed by 
those he loved who had so often "sopped with him" when there was little 
in the dish, under such disappointment and sorrow, may he not have 
been bhnded even by his tears? 

Jesus spent His life in teaching His disciples, and yet they did not 
understand Him or His doctrine. And although He spent a long period 
after His resurrection in teaching them of the "common salvation," and 
although His last word to them was a command to "baptize all nations" 
yet Peter, the chief Apostle, had not yet swallowed it; and the Lord had at 
last to choke it down him, through his vision upon the housetop. And even 
after that, Paul "withstood" his partiality for the old law. 


And now of your third Key, I do not feel to say much, as I fear I am 
writing in too great profusion, and that what I have written you will deem 
as of little worth. But from my standpoint of view, 1 can see that we have 
been in evolution since from before the world was, and that we were 
never without our agency, and never will be, unless we become the sons 
of Perdition, and that through our voluntary doings, or our failing to do. 
We fore-ordained, or elected ourselves to just the condition in which we 
were placed on earth; and we are now, through our works of good or evil, 
ordaining ourselves to the good or evil that awaits us in the great future. 
And I see that only through darkness do we comprehend the light, and 
that by their opposite do we comprehend the attributes and exaltation of 
the Gods. And just as we know love and care for our little children and 
forsee effects to them from causes, and have a purpose beyond their 
comprehension for their good, just so our Father has a purpose in 
ever5^hing relating to our condition here, for we are not here by accident 
or mistake, and that "all things must work to the good of those who fear 
God" and evolute in the "upward and onward"; and so 1 will thus leave 
your third key. 

And then you would have "further truths from the teachings of the 
Prophet". And where shall I commence? And how shall I write to your 
understanding even the little 1 may have retained in memory? You will 
not forget that the march in science through the last seventy years has in 
many things reversed the world's thought, changed its modes and almost 
its face, and is fast exploding the dogmas of outside theology. Well, the 
keys to all this knowledge were first committed to the Prophet Joseph, as 
a part of the gospel, for the world's benefit, for all of which he was 
derided. He was the first in this age to teach "substantialism", the eternity 
of matter, that no part or particle of the great universe could become 
annihilated or destroyed; that light and life and spirit were one; that all 


light and heat are the "Glory of God", which is his power, that fills the 
"immensity of space", and is the life of all things, and permeates with 
latent life, and heat, every particle of which all worlds are composed; that 
light or spirit, and matter, are the two first great primary principles of the 
universe, or of Being; that they are self-existent, co-existent, 
indestructible, and eternal, and from these two elements both our spirits 
and our bodies were formulated, and he gave us to understand that there 
were twelve kingdoms, or planets, revolving around our solar system, to 
which the Lord gave an equal division of His time or ministry and that 
now was His time to again visit the earth. He taught that all systems of 
worlds were in revolution, the lesser around the greater. He taught that 
all the animal kingdoms would be resurrected, and made us understand 
that they would remain in the dominion of those who, with creative 
power, reach out for dominion, through the power of eternal lives. He 
taught us that the saints would fill the great West, and through Mexico, 
Central and South America we would do a great work for the redemption 
of the remnant of Jacob. Of what he taught us relating to the Kingdom of 
God, as it would become organized upon the earth through "all nations 
learning war no more", and all adopting the God-given constitution of the 
United States as a Palladium of Liberty and Equal Rights. 

But this, of itself, would require a long chapter, which must wait until 
the fulfillment of a prediction by the Prophet, relating to a "Testimony 
that I should bear, after I had become hoary with age, of things which he 
that day taught to the circle of friends then around him," of whom I am 
the only one living. So here I will leave this subject for your further 
interrogations, and proceed to give you, so far as 1 can remember the 
Prophet Joseph's last charge to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. 


It was at Nauvoo early in 1844 in an assembly room, common to the 
meeting of the Council, or a select circle of the Prophet's most trusted 
friends, including all the Twelve, but not all the constituted authorities of 
the Church, for Presidents Rigdon, Law or Marks, the High Council nor 
Presidents of Quorums were not members of that council, which at times 
would exceed fifty in number. Its sittings were always strictly private, and 
all its rules were carefully and promptly observed and although its 
meetings were at times oftener than monthly and my home at Ramus 
over twenty miles distant, I was present at every session, and being about 
the youngest member of the council, I was deeply impressed with all that 
transpired, or was taught by the Prophet. 

Criticism had already commenced by those near him in authority with 
regard to his teachings and his doing. And we began now, in a degree, to 
understand the meaning of what he had so often publicly said, that 
"should he teach and practice the principles that the Lord had revealed to 
him, and now requested of him, that those then nearest him in the stand 
would become his enemies and the first to seek his life"; which they soon 
did, just as he had foretold. And to show you that under conditions then 
existing that the Prophet did not really desire longer to live, and that you 
may see how my mind was in a degree prepared for after results, I will 
briefly relate an incident that occurred at his last visit to us at Ramus. 

After he had at evening preached with great animation to a large 
congregation and had blessed nineteen children, he turned to me and 
said, "Benjamin, I am tired, let us go home", which only a block distant, we 
soon reached, and entering we found a warm fire with a large chair in 
front, and my wife sitting near with her babe, our eldest, upon her lap, 
and approaching her, I said, "Now, Melissa, see what we have lost by your 
not going to meeting. Brother Joseph has blessed all the children in the 


place but ours, and it is left out in the cold." But the Prophet at once said, 
"You shall lose nothing", and he proceeded to bless our first born, and 
then, with a deep drawn breath as a sigh of weariness, he sank down 
heavily in his chair, and said, "Oh! I do get so tired and weary, that at 
times I almost yearn for my rest", and then proceeded briefly to recount 
to us some of the most stirring events of his life's labors, suffering and 
sacrifices, and then he said, "1 am getting tired and would like to go to my 
rest." His words and tone thrilled and shocked me, and like an arrow 
pierced my hopes that he would long remain with us, and I said, as with a 
heart full of tears, "Oh! Joseph, what could we, as a people do without 
you? and what would become of the great Latter-day work if you should 
leave us?" He saw and was touched by my emotions, and in reply he said, 
"Benjamin, 1 should not be far away from you, and if on the other side of 
the veil I should still be working with you, and with a power greatly 
increased, to roll on this kingdom." And such was the tone, earnestness 
and pathos of his words to me then, that they can never be fully recalled 
but with emotion. 

And now before fully returning to the council and subject in connection 
with the above, I will relate a dream told to us in council by the Prophet 
but a short time before his death, which was as follows: "I dreamed that 
by the Laws, Marks, Higby's and Fosters, 1 was bound; both hand and foot 
and cast into a deep well, soon after which 1 heard screams of terror and 
cries of 'Oh! Brother Joseph, save us, save us!" This cry continued until 
with my elbows and toes I had worked my way to the top, and looking 
out, I saw all of those who had bound me within the folds of a terrible 
serpent, that was preparing to swallow them, and 1 told them that as they 
had bound me, 1 could render them no assistance." This dream made 
upon my mind an impression never forgotten, and just as he related it, so 


it was fulfilled in his death; for those were the men that opened the way 
for his assassination. 

And now returning to the council and the "Last Charge." Let us 
remember that by revelation he had reorganized the Holy Priesthood, and 
by command of the Lord (D&C 124 and D&C 123) had taken from the 
First Presidency his brother Hyrum to hold as Patriarch, the sealing 
power, the first and highest honor due to priesthood; that he had turned 
the keys of endowments, to the last anointing, and sealing together with 
keys of Salvation for the dead, with the eternity of the marriage covenant 
and the power of endless lives. All these keys he held, and under these 
then existing conditions he stood before that association of his select 
friends, including all the Twelve, and with great feeling and animation he 
graphically reviewed his life of persecution, labor and sacrifice for the 
church and kingdom of God, both of which he declared were now 
organized upon the earth. The burden of which had become too great for 
him longer to carry, that he was weary and tired with the weight he so 
long had borne, and he then said, with great vehemence: "And in the 
name of the Lord, I now shake from my shoulders the responsibilities of 
bearing off the Kingdom of God to all the world, and here and now I place 
that responsibility, with all the keys, powers and privileges pertaining 
thereto, upon the shoulders of you the Twelve Apostles, in connection 
with this council; and if you will accept this, to do it, God shall bless you 
mightily and shall open your way; and if you do it I now shake my 
garments clear and free from the blood of this generation and of all men"; 
and shaking his skirt with great vehemence he raised himself from the 
floor, while the spirit that accompanied his words thrilled every heart as 
with a feeling that boded bereavement and sorrow. 


And now, my dear brother, after 60 years have passed, at 85 in age, I 
bear to you and to all the world a solemn testimony of the truth and 
veracity of what I have written above, for although so many years have 
intervened, they are still in my mind, as fresh as when they occurred; no 
doubt as a part fulfillment of a prediction by the Prophet relating to 
"testimonies I should bear of his teachings, after I had become hoary with 

There were, dear brother, other teachings to that council, of which I am 
not at full liberty to write, but if I had your ear, I would remember that 
the Prophet once said to me: "Benjamin, in regard to those things I have 
taught you privately, that are not yet for the public, 1 give you the right 
when you are so led, to commit them to others, for you will not be led 
wrong in discerning those worthy of your confidence." 

And now to your question, "How early did the Prophet Joseph practice 
polygamy?" 1 hardly know how wisely to reply, for the truth at times may 
be better withheld; but as what 1 am writing is to be published only under 
strict scrutiny of the wisest, I will say, that the revelation [D&C 132] to 
the Church at Nauvoo, July 21, 1843, on the Eternity of the Marriage 
Covenant and the Law of Plural Marriage, was not the first revelation of 
the law received and practiced by the Prophet. In 1835, at Kirtland, 1 
learned from my sister's husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to 
the Prophet, and received it from him, "that the ancient order of Plural 
Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church." This at the time, did 
not impress my mind deeply, although there then lived with his family a 
neighbor's daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman 
about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed 
partial for the amiability of her character; and it was whispered even then 
that Joseph loved her. After this, there was some trouble with Jared 


Carter, and through Brother Sherman I learned that "as he had built 
himself a new house, he now wanted another wife", which Joseph would 
not permit. 

And then there was some trouble with Oliver Cowdery, and whisper 
said it was relating to a girl then living in his family; and I was afterwards 
told by Warren Parish, that he himself and Oliver Cowdery did know that 
Joseph had Fannie Alger as a wife, for they were spied upon and found 
together. And I can now see that as at Nauvoo, so at Kirtland, that the 
suspicion or knowledge of the Prophet's plural relation was one of the 
causes of apostasy and disruption at Kirtland although at the time there 
was little said publicly on the subject. 

Soon after the Prophet's flight in winter of 1837 and 1838, the Alger 
family left for the West and stopping in Indiana for a time Fannie soon 
married to one of the citizens there, and although she never left the state, 
she did not turn from the Church nor from her friendship with the 
Prophet while she lived. 

And now, looking back through the stirring adventures and incidents 
of thriUing experience of the four years that followed, from 1838 to 1843, 
such as accompanying the "Kirtland Poor Camp", and arriving in Missouri 
just in time to take in all the experience of that period, such as 
imprisonment in Wilson's camp with for many days— the Hauns Mill and 
McBride murderers as my guards, my wonderful escape and 
preservation, and my return the following summer to meet the Prophet at 
Nauvoo, with the terrible sickness that followed, both with others and 
myself; after which a two and a half year's mission to Canada and Middle 
States, all so full of change and thrilling incidents that all past experience 
of my life seemed as partly swallowed up or forgotten, but on meeting the 


Prophet at my return to Nauvoo, in June, 1842, he greeted me with great 
warmth, and almost at once installed me as his legal agent, with the right 
to use his name as 1 might be led in business transactions, especially as 
related to the Church lands and town property of Ramus, all of which 
were placed by my charge. 

And now, in visiting my sister, the widow of Lyman R. Sherman, who 
died a martyr to the conditions at Far West, 1 found with her a former 
acquaintance. Sister Louisa Beeman, and I saw from appearances that 
they were both in his care, and that he provided for their comfort; and as I 
was held closely to business, and my home at Ramus was twenty miles 
distant, 1 saw but little of them until after the Prophet, in early spring of 
1843, had come to Ramus to teach me plural marriage, and to ask my 
other sisters to be his wives, an account of which I have heretofore given 
by sworn statement but will here repeat as it occurred. 

It was Sunday morning, April 3rd or 4th, 1843, that the Prophet was at 
my home in Ramus, and after breakfast he proposed a stroll together, and 
taking his arm, our walk led toward a swail, surrounded by trees and tall 
brush and near the forest line not far from my house. Through the swail 
ran a small spring brook, across which a tree was fallen and was clean of 
its bark. On this we sat down and the Prophet proceeded at once to open 
to me the subject of plural and eternal marriage and he said that years 
ago in Kirtland the Lord had revealed to him the ancient order of plural 
marriage, and the necessity for its practice, and did command him then to 
take another wife, and that among his first thoughts was to come to my 
mother for some of her daughters. And as he was again required of the 
Lord to take more wives, he had come now to ask me for my sister Almira. 


My words astonished me and almost took my breath. I sat for a time 
amazed and finally, almost ready to burst with emotion, 1 looked him 
straight in the face and said: "Brother Joseph, this is something 1 did not 
expect, and I do not understand it. You know whether it is right, I do not. I 
want to do just as you tell me, and I will try, but if I ever should know that 
you do this to dishonor and debauch my sister, I will kill you as sure as 
the Lord lives." And while his eyes did not move from mine, he said with a 
smile, in a soft tone: "But Benjamin you will never know that, but you will 
know the principle in time, and will greatly rejoice in what it will bring to 
you." "But how," I asked, "Can I teach my sister what I myself do not 
understand, or show her what I do not myself see?" "But you will see and 
understand it," he said, "And when you open your mouth to talk to your 
sister, light will come to you and your mouth will be full and your tongue 
loose, and I will today preach a sermon to you that none but you will 
understand." Both of these promises were more than fulfilled. The text of 
his sermon was our use of the "one, five and ten talents," and as God had 
now commanded plural marriage, and was exaltation and dominion of the 
saints depended upon the number of their righteous posterity, from him 
who was then but with one talent, it would be taken and given him that 
had ten, which item of doctrine seems now to be somewhat differently 

But my thought and wish is to write of things just as they occurred, and 
I now bear an earnest testimony that his other prediction was more than 
fulfilled, for when with great hesitation and stammering I called my sister 
to a private audience, and stood before her shaking with fear, just so soon 
as 1 found power to open my mouth, it was filled, for the light of the Lord 
shone upon my understanding, and the subject that had seemed so dark 
now appeared of all subjects pertaining to our gospel the most lucid and 
plain; and so both my sister and myself were converted together, and 


never again did I need evidence or argument to sustain that high and holy 
principle. And within a few days of this period my sister accompanied me 
to Nauvoo, where at our sister Delcena's, we soon met the Prophet with 
his brother Hyrum and Wm. Clayton, as his private secretary, who always 
accompanied him. Brother Hyrum at once took me in hand, apparently in 
fear I was not fully converted, and this was the manner of his talk to me: 
"Now Benjamin, you must not be afraid of this new doctrine, for it is all 
right. You know Brother Hyrum don't get carried away by worldly things, 
and he fought this principle until the Lord showed him it was true. I know 
that Joseph was commanded to take more wives, and he waited until an 
angel with a drawn sword stood before him and declared that if he longer 
delayed fulfilling that command he would slay him." This was the manner 
of Brother Hyrum's teaching to me, which 1 then did not need, as I was 
fully converted. 

Meanwhile, the Prophet, with Louisa Beeman and my sister Delcena, 
had it agreeable arranged with Sister Almera, and after a little instruction 
she stood by the Prophet's side and was sealed to him as a wife, by 
Brother Cla5^on; after which the Prophet asked me to take my sister to 
occupy number "10" in his Mansion home during her stay in the city. But 
as I could not long be absent from my home and business, we soon 
returned to Ramus, where on the 15th of May, some three weeks later, 
the Prophet again came and at my house occupied the same room and 
bed with my sister, that the month previous he had occupied with the 
daughter of the late Bishop Partridge, as his wife. 

And at this time he sealed to me my first wife for eternity, and gave to 
me my first plural wife, Mary Ann Hale, an orphan girl raised by my 
mother then living with us, who is still with me, and is probably the only 
wife still living with the man to whom she was given by the Prophet. 


At the marriage of Sister Almera to the Prophet, there was still our 
youngest sister, for whom he manifest partiality, and would gladly have 
married, also, but she being young and partially promised to my first 
wife's brother, although reluctantly, the matter by him was dropped. 

On learning from the Prophet that even in Kirtland "the Lord had 
required him to take plural wives, and that he had then thought to ask for 
some of my sister,s" the past with its conditions and influences began 
more fully to unfold to my mind, the causes that must, at least in part, 
have led to the great apostasy and disruption in Kirtland. Without a doubt 
in my mind, Fanny Alger was, at Kirtland, the Prophet's first plural wife, 
in which, by right of his calling, he was justified of the Lord [see D&C 
132:59-60); while Oliver Cowdery, J. Carter, W. Parish, or others were not 
justified of the Lord either in their criticisms upon the doings of the 
Prophet, or in their becoming a "law unto themselves," through which 
they lost the light of their calling and were left in darkness. 

Fanny A., when asked by her brother and others, even after the 
Prophet's death, regarding her relations to him, replied: "That is all a 
matter of our own, and I have nothing to communicate." Her parents died 
in Utah, true to the church. And to my knowledge, was by President 
Kimball in the temple at St. George introduced as "Brother of the Prophet 
Joseph's first plural wife." 

The marriage of my eldest sister to the Prophet was before my return 
to Nauvoo, and it being tacitly admitted, 1 asked no questions. 

And as to the number that came into the plural order, before the 
Prophet's death, I can think of but five, whose names I will not now 


attempt to recall, but the number soon after his death began to increase. 
But on the finishing of the Temple, with endowments that followed, the 
number was greatly augmented. And so there was at least a "few who had 
accepted" and practiced plural marriage from about 1842 to 1852, when 
the revelation was published to the world. 

"How generally was polygamy practiced in Utah?" is a question that 1 
am not qualified to answer, but from my narrow observation, 1 would 
"guess" that one-tenth of our church men married plurally, and that two- 
thirds of that number made a fair success in raising good families, and 
that the other third was more or less a failure. But my judgment is not to 
be fully relied upon. 

Of the number of plural marriages in Joseph's day, I have already said 
of men there was but few, comprising the Prophet and part of the twelve, 
with a few others who were his confidential or bosom friends. 

You ask if plural marriage was ever Mandatory? If you mean by the 
Lord then I say yes; for it was by command to the Prophet from the first. 
But from the Prophet to the people, it came as counsel, which when 
personally given, was not always heeded. But no one who lived worthy of 
his priesthood and calling was deprived of a right to plural marriage. And 
just as it was a "happy privilege" for us in poverty and self-sacrifice to 
have our homes to preach the gospel, or to fill any calling in labors of love 
and charity for the salvation of the Father's children, thereby to learn 
their gratitude and love as our reward just so it was a privilege. For how 
do we attain to real happiness but in administering happiness to others? 

The first command was to "multiply" and the Prophet taught us that 
dominion and power in the Great Future would be commensurate with 


the number of "wives, children and friends" that we inherit here, and that 
our mission to the earth was to organize a nuclei of Heaven, to take with 
us, to the increase of which there would be no end. 

And while I can believe that to some plural marriage was a great cross, 
yet I cannot say so from my own experience, for although in times that 
tried men's hearts, 1 married seven wives, 1 was, blessed with the gift to 
love them all; and although providing for so many was attended with 
great labor, care and anxiety, yet there was sympathy and love as my 
reward. And there is not one of my children of their mothers that are not 
dearer to me still than life. 

On my return in 1855 from a mission to the Sandwich Isles, I found 
that Santaquin Utah, with the homes of my family and all that I possessed 
to the amount of thousands was destroyed or stolen, by Indians in the 
Walker War, and my family homeless. And yet in 1856, although 
conditions appeared forbidding, council suggested that 1 take other 
wives; and feeling sure it was the voice of the Lord to me, with promise of 
His blessing, so I married three more young wives, which was followed by 
cricket and locust raids to destroy nearly all our crops for five years, and 
yet we were neither hungry or naked. These were days that tried the 
souls of both men and women, and yet the love and gratitude of any one 
of my children today more than repays all, and 1 know that both men and 
women in plural marriage were happy in the assurance that they were 
obeying the command of God and the council of His servants. 

And without the consent and approbation of him who held the keys of 
that priesthood, no one had the right even to speak upon the subject of 
plural marriage to the women he would marry, and even then, he ought 
first to obtain consent of her parents before having the right to speak to 


her upon the subject. And this was ever the law so far as I understand it. 
And for all plural marriages or sealings there was the one only that held 
this right, which he, if necessary, could delegate to others. 

And then with regard to a man's right to take a second wife without the 
knowledge and consent of the first, I will only say, if his first wife be like 
the Sarah of old, there would be no such necessity, but if other wives, then 
see D&C 132:64-65. 

And now your question as to the cause of the early persecutions of the 
Saints. To answer this question, we should go back to its inception to find 
cause for the hate that is ever behind to incite persecution. Between the 
present and former dispensations there is a striking analogy. Jesus 
appeared to the learned, haughty, dignified and opulent Jews as the "poor 
illiterate carpenter's son of Nazareth", a despised "Galilean," who claimed 
to be the son of the Highest, the Great Jehovah, that "without him there 
was nothing made that was made," that he held "all power both in Heaven 
and on Earth," that he could "destroy the temple and rear it up in three 
days," etc. while the multitude turned from them to follow Him the "lowly 
Nazarene," hence their envy and jealousy which ripened into hate and in 
their nailing Him as a malefactor to the cross, and just so it has been in 
our day. 

Joseph Smith, of lowly birth, a farm boy of common class, poor, 
illiterate and without distinction other than being religiously inclined; he 
attended revivals, was in these anxious circles honestly seeking religion 
and to learn which was the right church; and calling upon the Lord in 
simple faith that he might know. Both the Father and the Son in a pillar of 
light descended, and in teaching him commanded that "he join no 
religious sect, as their creeds were all an abomination in His sight." 


And this blow, by an ignorant son of poverty at fourteen years of age, in 
the face of all Christendom, was an insult to the dignity of all priestly 
learning, greatness and wealth; with all their millions in Bible, missionary 
and other societies for converting the world, all their greatness defied 
and denounced by an ignorant boy, their contempt led to hatred and 
persecution. And when that same boy became a man, he claimed having 
revelations, and that an angel had delivered to him golden plates 
containing the history of a fallen people, and that God, through him was 
about to restore the ancient gospel in its purity, which, if true, would blot 
out all their greatness. And so inspired by hate, they made lies their 
weapons with which to fight the truth; both of which are attributes of the 
devil, whose servants they were, as "blind leaders of the blind." The 
leaders blinded by envy, jealousy, self interest and hate while the 
multitude were blinded by the popular prejudice and cry of "away with 
them"; and all going together to the pit; just as the Master saw, and upon 
the cross "prayed His Father to forgive them as they knew not what they 
did." Our Prophet Joseph like the Master, was held in contempt by learned 
priests, bigots and hypocrites, and like Him, was scorned, despised, and 
derided by the rich; and by all Christendom was hated without cause, and 
persecuted unto death by those who would not know him. 

It is true that the Prophet seemed to lay the foundation of our Church 
with a military spirit, and so, unlike the present, he taught us resistance to 
all oppression; to defend our liberties with the sword. But I can now see 
as the temple of truth and love is built higher by the Master's hand that 
resentment brought to us only calamity and the reverse of our hopes. And 
1 can also see now that unnecessary offences were at times given to 
strengthen the prejudice or hate of our enemies; for that was the infancy 
of the Church and its days of child-like enthusiasm and great hopes. And 


at times, no doubt, leading elders made child-like boasts to irritate our 

But of that period and experience, as compared with today, you can 
realize but little, and so I do not marvel at your criticisms upon the 
common manner of disposing of the question of "causes," for all is now so 

And as since, before 1830 the Lord began, through the Prophet Joseph, 
to turn the keys of knowledge to flood the world with new light and life, 
or to plant in the "three measures of meal" that "leaven" through which 
all the world will yet become "leavened", which has since its inception 
been working in the world's thought to produce great change, politically, 
religiously, socially, financially and scientifically-the increased light that 
came to earth through the keys of knowledge turned by the Prophet 
Joseph for which he was derided, hated, and killed, but towards which all 
searching eyes of inquiry are now turning with new thoughts leading 
towards the great truths of the gospel. 

While many principles of our religion are being counterfeited by the 
world to throw dust in the eyes of the thoughtless, that they may not 
discover that this is the great day of "God's preparation" for regenerating 
the earth with a Zion for its Capital City. 

"The Prophet and his hobbies," The Prophet fully realized that arrayed 
against him, or the truth, was combined all the religious, political, 
financial, educational and social powers of the world. And all this power 
he had to meet with wisdom that came alone from God. He had no time or 
place for "hobbies", but stood boldly to defend the truth with such 
weapons and helps as came to him of the Lord. 


P. P. Pratt, through his "Voice of Warning to all the people," published 
at an early day in Kirtland, was a primary exponent of the Prophet's 
theology. And the Prophet's reply to journalists who early, in Nauvoo, 
asked him for a copy of the "Mormon creed" has since become our 
"articles of Faith." And if the Prophet did have a "hobby" it was to provide 
for the poor and to defend the liberties of the people, for when he 
organized the Nauvoo Legion, and for which he laid down his life. And the 
principle of his government or influence over his people is explained in 
his reply to a church dignitary, I think a Catholic Bishop, who at Nauvoo 
Mansion asked him "by what power he governed so great a people?" He 
replied, "1 do not govern them, 1 teach them correct principles and they 
govern themselves," which was a "hobby", if he had any. 

"The Prophet's teaching of love" was not to work upon the sympathies 
and sensibilities of the people, but by his great example and self-sacrifice, 
and in showing us that while all the world were against us, our only hope 
was in our union, and that union was only possible as the fruit of our love 
for each other. And in teaching us the "Fatherhood of God, and the 
Brotherhood of Man," we could begin to see why we should "love God 
supremely, and our brother as ourselves." He taught us that God was the 
great head of human procreation— was really and truly the father of both 
our spirits and our bodies; that we were but parts of a great whole, 
mutually and equally dependent upon each other, according to our 
conditions. And in our love of God we show, as do the members of our 
bodies, naturally a greater love and protection for our head. But this 
reasoning could not be fully understood by all, and as 1 have said before, 
in the infancy of the church, our minds and views were more narrow, and 
we were more petulant, resentful and perhaps more vindictive then than 
now, that the principles of charity and love are seen to be the life spring 


and core principle of our gospel. And now that we see the temple of 
charity, union and love, reared above its foundation, once guarded by the 
"Nauvoo Legion," commanded by the Traitor, "Joab, General in Israel," we 
are led to feel that those were the days of childhood's mistakes, yet all 
leading to great purposes as was the call of Judas to the apostleship. And 
we are as a people today, in wisdom, stature and power with God, just 
what we have grown to be through accumulating experience in the 
Father's care. 

"Early day marriage among the Saints." Replying to your question, 
relating to early day marriages in the Church, I will say, that there were 
no arbitrary rules relating to marriage, other than that the ceremony be 
in strict accordance with statute law of the state. And as no one of the 
elders at a very early day took to themselves the right to perform that 
ceremony, it was left to the Justice of the Peace, until Elder Seymour 
Brunson at Kirtland, assumed that prerogative and was patronized until 
others followed his example; and 1 remember of no marriage by the 
Prophet until at Nauvoo. And for marrying with the outside, the rule from 
the first was as now, strongly against it by council, but tolerant as to 
common fellowship, while all the wise understand that such marriage is 
of no eternal worth. 

In reply to your question on Early proselyting and attitude of the 
Church toward other denominations, "I must say again, that in the rise of 
the Church all advantages of wealth, education and popularity were with 
our enemies; while the few poor, unlearned elders, called of the Lord, 
were at every disadvantage. But in having the truth and a trust in the 
Lord, and they at times, through their faith and zeal, enthused by the 
spirit of their callings, were led to use the gospel truths as a battering 
ram, to demolish creeds and hypocracy, as fabrics "built upon the sand," 


instead of first rearing in view of all the gospel temple of truth and love, 
as a home of refuge for the honest in heart, when their houses built upon 
the "sand" should fall. 

And our labors then were perhaps not always in the wisdom and 
charity that the experience and learning of subsequent years has brought. 
And in proportion as we were derided, persecuted and held in contempt 
by a hireling priesthood, whose creeds we knew were but an 
abomination, and all their ministry but frauds, and so we regarded their 
show of sincerity as hallow mockery and pretence, all for popularity or 
gain. And of all the sects, we regarded the Catholic church as the great 
head of priestcraft and hypocracy. And so far as 1 am personally 
concerned, 1 am hardly rid of that view and feeling yet, that they are really 
but "garnished sepulchers" filled with the bones of a dead and rotten past. 

And right here a full chapter could be written of young men, who, while 
yet but boys, went forth in ignorance, and through their humility and in 
the spirit of their calling, soon became mighty both in word and in deed, 
and for a season would be as brilliant stars of our hopes, but through 
forgetting the Lord, in remembrance of their own greatness, too many, 
like bright meteors, sank from sight to rise no more, in fulfillment of His 
word that "no flesh should glory in His presence"; while others, trusting 
in their own strength, were led into sins and were swallowed up in their 
transgressions, after a labor in faithfulness for a season. 

"Pioneers and Oregon." With others, from the Prophet at an early day, I 
took in the idea of our pioneering or exploring, to find somewhere in the 
west a place of safety for the Church. And while some thoughts would be 
of valleys in the mountains, an oasis in the "Great American Desert," 
others did talk of Oregon, but not in the Prophet's day did any properly 


organized company start. But at his death the star of our hope for a home 
of peace began more plainly to rise in the Great West, somewhere to be 
found. But where, we knew not. Among the speculations as to where, 
Oregon was talked of, and then of Van Couver's Island, which, with its 
great advantages for Mormon safety from persecution, was pointed out 
by our professed friend Stephen A. Douglas, who came to the Nauvoo 
Mansion in 1845, then kept open by myself, soon after which the praises 
of Upper California began to be rehearsed and sung. But by Brigham 
Young, to my knowledge, there was never a pointer given as to our 
destination as a people. And although in organizing the Pioneer 
Emigration, I was appointed captain of fifty wagons, and was among the 
first to cross the Mississippi, and camped on Sugar Creek, 1 yet heard no 
suggestion by our leader as to where we were going, nor did 1 know of a 
"Scout, mountaineer, or guide" being in our camp for one day, or for 
anyone to give a word to point or direct our way but Brigham Young. And 
never until after our arrival in Salt Lake Valley, did I see Fremount, [John 
C. Femont] Kit Carson, Peg Leg Smith or Captain [Jim] Bridger, all of 
whom 1 saw after our Modern Moses guided alone by revelation, had led 
us to the Salt Lake Valley. 

"Of changes and mistakes," I hardly feel inspired to write. For change is 
everywhere and in everything, and liability of change and mistakes is 
with every one, and if the Master "learned obedience" through 
experience, how much more need of experience have we?. I believe that 
the mistakes of a true man will be as steps upon which he will rise to 
greater wisdom, exertions, and to broader views. And why should not the 
experience of yesterday make us the wiser today? We are not always in 
the same mind and feeling; for when prompted by hunger. He cursed the 
tree that bore Him no fruit; and when angry with scourges he drove from 
the Temple "money changers" and kicked over their tables. But this was 


not His mood when at the grave of Lazarus He so wept that the guests 
exclaimed, "Behold how He loveth him"; nor when in view of calamities to 
come He wept over Jerusalem; and does it not look like a mistake that He 
chose as one of His apostles a Judas to betray Him? 

And now all of this, to a great degree, finds a parallel in the life of the 
Prophet Joseph. He was already to fight for the rights and liberties of his 
friends, and his heart was ever full of sympathy and tears, to sorrow with 
those he loved; and he too chose among his counsellors and friends those 
who did betray and bring him to death. And no man, seemingly, could 
make greater mistakes in selection of associates than did the Prophet; 
and this, with the many other things of which he was accursed, his 
enemies held as evidence that he was a fallen prophet. And even the Lord 
not only at times admonished him for neglect of duty; but speaks of his 
"sins" and "transgressions" , which would imply that he was not always 
equally enlightened and guided by inspiration. And in the earliest days he 
did so make mistakes that the Lord at one time witheld from him the keys 
of his calling. And he does not in his own history hesitate to say that after 
conversing with both the Father and the Son, and being administered to 
by holy angels, that he made great mistakes and was overcome in 
transgression and sins. And as to mistakes through want of properly 
discerning the "times and seasons" of prophetic events, we were over 
seventy years ago taught by our leaders to believe that the coming of 
Christ and the millenial reign was much nearer than then we believe it to 
be now. And mistakes through imaginations and groundless hopes have 
been all along the line of our experience as a Church. And are not our 
reverses, disappointments and mistakes permitted to be monitors and 
guides for the future? And 1 do know of things done and of principles 
taught by the Prophet Joseph that our Prophet, Joseph F., would not today 


accept as an example for him to imitate. And is not our growth in wisdom 
the cumulated fruit of our experimental or active life? 

"President Brigham Young." Of Brigham Young as President of the 
Church, I will again bear this as a faithful testimony that I do know and 
bear record that upon the head of Brigham Young as chief, with the 
Apostleship in full, was by the voice of the Prophet loseph in my hearing, 
laid the full responsibility of bearing of the kingdom of God to all the 
world. And I do further bear as a testimony, faithful and true, to the 
Church and to all the world, that at a conference of the whole Church, at 
Nauvoo, subsequent to the Prophet's death and return of the absent 
Apostles, that 1 sat in the assembly near to President Rigdon, closely 
attentive to his appeal to the conference to recognize and sustain his 
claim as "Guardian for the Church." And I was perhaps, to a degree, 
forgetful of what I knew to be the rights and duties of the apostleship, and 
as he closed his address and sat down, my back was partly turned to the 
seat occupied by Apostle Brigham Young and other Apostles, when 
suddenly, and as from Heaven, 1 heard the voice of the Prophet Joseph, 
that thrilled my whole being, and quickly turning around I saw in the 
transfiguration of Brigham Young, the tall, straight and portly form of the 
Prophet Joseph Smith, clothed in a sheen of light, covering him to his feet; 
and 1 heard the real and perfect voice of the Prophet, even to the whistle, 
as in years past caused by the loss of a tooth said to have been broken out 
by the mob at Hyrum. This view, or vision, although but for seconds, was 
to me as vivid and real as the glare of lightning or the voice of thunder 
from the heavens, and so deeply was I impressed with what I saw and 
heard in this transfiguration, that for years 1 dare not publicly tell what 
was given me of the Lord to see. But when in later years 1 did publicly 
bear this testimony, I found that others would testify to having seen and 


heard the same. But to what proportion of the congregation who were 
present I could never know. But I do know that this, my testimony is true. 

The Prophet's lost tooth, to which I alluded was, as generally 
understood, broken out by the mob at Hyrum while trying to pry open his 
mouth to strangle him with acid, which from time, until the tooth was 
replaced by a dentist neighbor, a year or so previous to his death, there 
had a whistle-like sound to accompany all his public speaking which I 
again plainly heard at the time of which I write. 

And while I do know that Brigham Young as President of the Church, 
was the right man in the right place, and a great leader for Israel, 1 still 
know that he never claimed to be perfect in all of his ways, but that, like 
his brethren, he at times was liable to mistakes. And to some of his 
mistakes I am a witness, and also that he saw some of his mistakes and 
nobly corrected them. 

And to show more fully his leading traits and general "personal 
character", I will go back to relate that soon after embracing the gospel in 
1832, Brigham Young started with his brother from their home in the 
state of New York, to visit the Prophet at Kirtland, and on their way called 
upon us at Pomfret, N. Y., who had received the gospel just before them, 
and remaining overnight with my sister's husband, Lyman R. Sherman. 
And while at evening in animated conversation upon the gifts as 
promised to accompany the gospel, the spirit came upon Brother 
Sherman in mighty power, and he opened his mouth in an unknown 
tongue, to the great surprise and joy of all, and 1 think that Brother 
Brigham also at that time received the gift; Brother Lyman R. Sherman 
being the first known to have spoken in the gift of tongues by the power 
of God in this dispensation. And on Brother Brigham arriving in Kirtland 


at the Prophet's home, being called to lead in family prayer, as a surprise 
even to the Prophet, he opened his mouth in a strange tongue, the first 
heard by him, which he said at once was in the language of our first 
parents. And he, at that time, made the Prediction upon the head of 
Brigham Young that "at some period he would become the leader of the 
Church, and that there would be but one danger to beset him, and that 
would be his love of wealth." These things were told me by Brother 
Sherman at near the time of their occurrence, who remained almost as 
the right hand of the Prophet until the day of his death. And while I am 
witness that after the Prophet's death that Brigham Young became 
Israel's great leader, a Prophet, Seer and Revelator, to the Church in all 
the world, 1 yet know that he was a great financier and at times did 
manifest a love for wealth, and did make mistakes, some of which he may 
not have lived fully to rectify. But with all of his mistakes, private or 
public, his voice was ever the voice of the true shepherd to Israel. And in 
looking for mistakes, I feel admonished to look after my own personality, 
which, with all of his faults, might perhaps leave me, in comparison, too 
small for a full claim to notice. 

From his young manhood, all through his after life, in close 
observation, I saw him through every calling, rise to become Israel's great 
chief, holding every key of Priesthood and power pertaining to the 
Kingdom of God on the earth and the salvation for the dead. And 1 saw, 
too, that through his great capacity as financier, with his love of riches, 
that he became as the Prophet had foretold, possessed of great wealth, 
which, although it may have had an influence to a degree upon his 
children, it had none to draw him from the love or duties of his high 
calling, in which, at times, he seemed fully tested, and the confidence of 
the people was towards him from his first assuming the Presidency. 


His great influence as a leader seemed to lie in his quick discernment, 
his ready decisions, and in his right judgement, in placing men and things 
in their proper position, and to their best possible use; while his intuitive 
magnetism, his kindly sympathy in afflictions, his noble bearing as a 
brother, friend and as a man in its true and full sense, inspired 
confidence, respect and love in all who really knew him. And as for 
comparing him with others filling the same position, 1 can only think of 
them all, and each, as strong and mighty pillars in the Great Temple of our 
Hopes, equal in strength and use, but each molded by the Master hand in 
symmetry and beauty to a difference in form and mind but not in 
Priesthood and purpose. 

"Brigham Young, his interest in education." Upon this question 1 will 
not prolong remarks. With Brigham Young from 1832 until his death in 
1877 I was often closely associated, and I know him to have been a 
pioneer, a promoter, and a true friend to education, and although he was 
not himself cultured in scholarship or refined by classic education, yet he 
by nature was highly cultured and refined both in habit, demeanor and 
conversation, and no one could associated with him and not be impressed 
by his refining influence. And so far as the influence of music and drama 
tend to civilize and elevate, or refine society, credit should be due to 
Brigham Young as the pioneer chief in their promotion and establishment 
in the heart of the "Great American Desert," to give musical tone and 
inspiration to all its divisions into states. 

But we should not forget that Brigham Young was the leader of a 
people, driven before the cannon and bayonet, of a heartless and cruel 
mob, who fled across the Mississippi in winter, leaving their homes 
without opportunity to provide food or clothing; and plundered of all 
they could not carry, and to go they knew not where; and to save the lives 


of all of these many thousands now devolved on Brigham Young, even to 
look after the possibilities for transportation, to learn the way, to open 
roads, to see that all had food, and then protect them from the tomahawk, 
scalping knife and bullet; and when in the Valleys, to measure out land, to 
formulate laws, and to counsel the people how to save a pittance from 
swarms of crickets and locusts that ravaged their field. 

And for some years. President Young, with all the people, were 
devotedly seeking to save the souls of the people alive, from starvation, 
with hope of a better day for education. 

But enthused by the spirit of our leader, in every way-station on the 
road, in every town or ward settled after arriving in Utah, about the first 
house built by the people was for pubhc school and meeting purposes. 
And that Brigham Young opposed education, with desire to keep his 
people in ignorance, is a monster in falsehood, for he was not only the 
pioneer in education in the mountain states, but so long as he lived he 
assisted it liberally with his means, and the Brigham Young Academy and 
College, in Utah, will continue to bear fruit to the honor of his name after 
his traducers with their falsehoods, are buried in forgetfulness, under the 
contempt of God and all just men. 

"What 1 know of the objects and purposes, in raising the Mormon 
Battalion." To show you that I did know the motive of President Young in 
sending the Battalion, I will say that as one of that special Council 
organized by the Prophet, of which I have written, and of which President 
Young being the head, 1 still hold my seat and still had a voice in all 
general movements relating to our exodus as a people from Nauvoo. And 
I will say that this council, as a legislature of the people, did continue 
under the Presidency and became the Colonial Council, or legislature of 


the State of Deseret. And I was present at the arrival of Colonel Little and 
company at Garden Grove, with the requisition, by Gout for five hundred 
volunteers for the American Army, served upon the fleeting Mormons as 
a test to their loyalty and patriotism by Senator Benton of Missouri. It was 
well understood at the time, as the subject was fully ventilated by the 
council, and all comprehended it as a great sacrifice and that there was no 
reward or benefit offered by the government in any degree. 

It was a test of the people's and our Prophet's loyalty and patriotism 
while under arrest; and this patriotism and loyalty was now to be placed 
upon the alter at a great disadvantage. And would we stand the test-even 
as did our Father Abraham answer this great question? 

At Garden Grove all of the enlistment was filled, and now, this was 
unequalled patriotism and valor of the Sons of Zion, who sacrificed aged 
parents, wives and children, sweethearts and other dear ones, by leaving 
them homeless, unprotected, and to the mercy of the wild and naked 

That such a privilege was sought for by the Mormons, should be 
stamped as a monstrosity in falsehood. But that it was a great and far- 
reaching test of loyalty all will admit, which was to establish the truth of 
Mormon love and loyalty to that heaven-inspired and God-given 
Constitution of the United States, which will yet give guarantee of liberty 
and equal rights to all people of-the earth and nations shall "learn war no 
more," and shall learn to better comprehend that great principle of the 
Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. 

I do not think of more to write. 


Signed, Benjamin F. Johnson